Western Cape
Load shedding affects agriculture
10:49 (GMT+2), Mon , 15 September 2014
Western Cape
Unannounced loadshedding is badly affecting the agriculture sector particularly at the time when the sowing season of many crops is beginning throughout the province, agriculturists believe. Agriculture is affected on many levels and pumps can not work to supply water from the rivers, canals and dams to irrigate lands, a local farmer Mr Ben Langberg told AgriECO. These concerns follow Eskom’s warning that load shedding may worsen this winter. During a meeting between parliament’s portfolio committees on energy and public enterprises, acting CEO Collin Matjila confirmed that the increased possibility of load shedding remains a risk. He said that “we are going to have to live with it.” Eskom’s ageing infrastructure has been lacking in maintenance for the past 15 years. This has lead to power utility battles with electricity outages. Eskom confirmed that current electricity reserve levels are at 6%. This will continue to lead to forced demand reduction, Matjila confirmed. Dreams of bumper crops have been destroyed by Eskom’s continious electricity shortages. Loadshedding has added fuel to the fire that farmers must battle on a daily basis. Not only will they now struggle to irrigate lands properly but farmers are also unable to afford diesel due to its skyrocketing prices to run diesel engines to irrigate the land. Langberg said it should be the government’s responsibility to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the growers to enhance the agriculture production and to overcome food shortage in the country. “How on earth can we do our jobs if they don’t allow us to? How can growers survive with escalating fuel prices and now with drips and drabs bits of electricity to irrigate?” he demanded. Langberg is not the only local farmer concerned that loadshedding will be a severe set back for the agricultural sector and the economy as well. Stakeholders in a large sugarcane business in the Onderberg also expressed their great concern over long hours loadshedding stating that it would lead to collapse the agriculture sector. “First we had to overcome a crippling sugar worker strike and just when we were starting to find our feet again now we must hear we have to battle electricity shortages!” Matjila confirmed that Eskom will put revised load shedding schedules in place. He explained that this is to provide customers with a level of predictability and allow them to prepare in advance, sometimes only by a day. Since November last year, Eskom experienced several incidents during the past eight months that had caused various levels of load shedding. These six emergency incidents could have been due to the fact that only a handful of its coal-fired power stations are younger than the 30-year design life expected of these plants. The oldest at 52 years is the Komati plant. As a result, the energy availability factor (EAF) is at 75%, well below Eskom’s targeted 80%.

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