South Africa's Mbeki apologises for power cuts

 

South African President Thabo Mbeki apologised on Friday for a crippling electricity shortage but promised that the "emergency" would be overcome shortly.

"It is ... necessary to take this opportunity to convey to the country the apologies of both the government and (state power utility) Eskom for the national emergency," the president told lawmakers in Cape Town.


"In essence, the significant rise in electricity demand of the last two years has outstripped the new capacity we have brought on stream."

Delivering his annual state of the nation address, Mbeki said the government would focus on reducing consumer demand while investing in the longer-term in new generation capacity.


"On the supply side, Eskom is working furiously to ensure the introduction of co-generation projects as a matter of urgency," he told parliament.

"We are taking steps to enhance Eskom's maintenance capacity. We have emergency task teams dealing with the challenge of coal quality and supply ... and we are working to fast-track the approval and construction of gas turbine projects."

The blackouts, said Mbeki, should rather be seen as a challenge to become more energy efficient.

"We face an emergency, but we can overcome the problems in a relatively short period. This situation has precipitated the inevitable realisation that the era of very cheap and abundant electricity has come to an end."

Large parts of the country are intermittently plunged into darkness since late last year as Eskom imposes planned blackouts to conserve dwindling electricity supplies.

The commercial capital Johannesburg has been hardest hit, and analysts have warned of foreign investors taking flight as everything from factory production to traffic regulation has been affected.

Gold and platinum production was recently halted when power to the mines could not be guaranteed. (AFP)
 
 
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