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News : Eskom: We are ready for World Cup

The power utility Eskom is confident South Africa will host a blackout-free World Cup next month although longer-term concerns about the country's electricity supply persist, a senior official said on Monday.

Eskom has mobilised enough back-up power to ensure that the lights stay on during the one-month soccer event, said Erica Johnson, Eskom's head of the Customer Network Business.

"We will have sufficient generation capacity over this period... We believe we are ready to power the 2010 World Cup," she told reporters during a visit to the National Control Room.

The biggest economy in Africa was crippled by a power crisis in early 2008 caused by rising electricity demand and a lack of investment in new capacity.
Eskom has since launched a power expansion programme but the first new power plants are only expected in 2012, well after the soccer contest next month.

Johnson dismissed the possibility of a strike disrupting its operations, saying she hoped talks with the country's biggest union, the National Union of Mineworkers, would resolve a current pay dispute. The union has said it plans to call a strike at Eskom as from Wednesday.

Eskom expects demand during the soccer tournament being held in South Africa's winter to peak at 37.2 gigawatts. The World Cup is expected to increase that by a further 275 MW.

The utility has secured supply of around 42 GW for the event, which includes Eskom's own capacity, imports, mainly from Mozambique's Cahora Bassa dam, and demand reduction commitments from big industrial consumers.

In the worst case, the utility can also revert to open cycle gas turbines, which could supply a further 2 000 MW.

Johnson said numerous contingency plans had been put in place to ensure the utility can respond swiftly in case of any emergency at stadiums and other key points.

Eskom has introduced a new warning system on public television channels with a referee holding up coloured cards to indicate the power situation, to urge consumers to save power.

The broadcasting of each game will be run by diesel generators to avoid any disruptions, while uninterrupted power supply units will back up the lighting at the stadiums.

Johnson said the utility would postpone all non-critical maintenance until after the World Cup, adding that the system would again be tight once that begins. - Reuters

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