The United States government has advised its stakeholders in South Africa to start thinking about disaster management plans in case of a total collapse of Eskom’s power grid, MyBroadband is reporting.
Eskom is South Africa’s state-owned power company. It operates 15 coal-fired power stations that generate more than 80 percent of the country’s electricity, but regularly breaks down.
According to MyBroadband, a South-Africa based news website, the US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) convened a meeting with stakeholders a week ago to discuss business security concerns surrounding Eskom and load-shedding.
It said representatives from several large US-based corporations with operations in South Africa and large local companies participated in the meeting.
It noted that participants at the meeting were said to have agreed to abide by the Chatham House Rule.
When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker (s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.
MyBroadband, which reviewed a recording of the meeting, said the US officials are not yet concerned about a total collapse of the grid — expressing faith in Eskom’s system operator to mitigate such an eventuality.
The discussions in the meeting centred around the dangers that could occur in a total blackout, and how long it would take to get systems back online.
“Eskom estimates, in the best case scenario, it would take six to 14 days to restart the power grid,” the report quoted a US government minerals and energy expert, as saying.
“There are a few feeder lines from other countries, but not enough to help with a black start situation.
“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.”
The report also said some of the participants expressed fear that there would be looting and civil unrest if the grid collapses — with the aftermath looking like the result of a civil war.
They also said Eskom would face difficulties getting the grid up and running again due to how spread out it is.
It added that the US government warned attendees that they would be unable to rely on South Africa’s national security structures as they would be stretched too thin.
According to MyBroadband, one attendee from a major South African financial institution corroborated the above claim, saying any disaster management plan could not rely on the government at all.
“If any mitigation plan has any reliance on the state, you’ve got a very poor mitigation strategy in place,” they said.