US warns SA: prepare for a complete grid crash

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US government warning about Eskom — time to think about total grid collapse.


The US government has cautioned its stakeholders in South Africa – advising that preparation for a complete power grid crash is necessary. The extremely high levels of power cuts throughout the nation has sparked major concern. Thus, they advocate for the planning of disaster management strategies – clearly stating that these plans cannot rely on the national government. “If any mitigation plan has any reliance on the state, you’ve got a very poor mitigation strategy in place”. Read about this warning in the My Broadband article below. – Carmen Mileder

US government warning about Eskom — time to think about total grid collapse

By Jan Vermeulen

The United States Government has advised its stakeholders in South Africa to start thinking about disaster management plans for a total collapse of Eskom’s power grid.

Although a blackout remains unlikely, the risk has increased due to how unreliable Eskom’s coal fleet has become. This is evident by the higher levels of load-shedding South Africa is experiencing.

The consequences of a total blackout would also be devastating, making it worth preparing for even if the likelihood is low.

The US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) convened a meeting with stakeholders last week to discuss business security concerns surrounding Eskom and load-shedding.

Representatives from several large US-based corporations with operations in South Africa and large local companies participated in the meeting.

MyBroadband has viewed a recording of the meeting. After speaking to one of the participants, we learned they were all asked to agree to the Chatham House Rule.

It should be noted MyBroadband was not party to the agreement. However, we chose not to identify any participants by name to avoid them being punished for speaking their minds.

A US Government minerals and energy expert focusing on South Africa said that they are still not very worried about a total blackout.

“I have a lot of faith in Eskom System Operators. I think they really know what they’re doing,” they said.

“But when you start to get this level of load-shedding, and the amount of power plants that are tripping, I think it’s something we need to start thinking about.”

They said that although a total blackout presents several dangers, the primary threat is the time it takes to bring a system back up from that total collapse.

“Eskom estimates, in the best case scenario, it would take 6–14 days to restart the power grid,” the official said.

South Africa’s grid topology makes a “black start” like this challenging because it’s so spread out, and because Eskom is in a power island.

“There are a few feeder lines from other countries, but not enough to help with a black start situation,” the US Government official said.

“To start one unit at Medupi would require a 60-megawatt generator. It’s a massive amount of power just to get a Medupi unit started.”

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