South Africa will use mobile generators to provide power for soccer stadiums hosting the 2010 World Cup while overburdened state utility Eskom [ESCJ.UL] will act as a backup, the power company said on Tuesday.

South Africa’s Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica assured a FIFA delegation this week that the government would supply the 3.4 million litres of liquid fuel required to run the generators at the stadiums.

Eskom has struggled to meet rising electricity demand in Africa’s biggest economy this year, owing to a lack of investment in new power generation capacity. The government has insisted that there will be no power blackouts during the world’s biggest soccer bonanza.

Some 136 million rand ($13.50 million) has been set aside for cities hosting the soccer spectacle to build substations to boost electricity supply, especially near the stadiums, the government’s news service reported.

Eskom estimates it will have to import some 700 megawatts of power for the World Cup’s duration, Johnny Dladla, the head of Eskom’s 2010 task team told Reuters.

The utility will also establish local command centres which will regulate and supervise the electricity supply. It has found that some 170 megawatts were needed to host each game with an average of 53,000 people attending.

“We have factored these figures into our planning and also taken account of the fact that the World Cup will be held in South Africa’s winter,” Dladla said in an emailed statement.
His unit was looking at potential risk areas and will be running test scenarios, with the final one during the FIFA Confederations Cup held next year.

“We are confident that we are doing everything humanly possible. Our scenario planning has taken account of many factors that could impact on the event,” Dladla said.

“We believe that at this stage we are on track to a successful 2010.”

Eskom has been rationing electricity since January, when the national grid nearly collapsed, leading to a five-day shutdown of mines and raising questions about South Africa’s ability to host the World Cup in two years’ time.

As a member of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), Eskom has also asked the 16 member countries for backup supply, and to reduce their electricity use during the event. It also has requested them to refrain from routine maintenance shutdowns.

Dladla said Eskom has been in touch with countries who have hosted the event previously to assess the challenges the South African utility might encounter.

In a long-term solution to end the country’s power shortage, Eskom has embarked on a 343 billion rand power investment programme over the next five years, well after the World Cup.

AUTHOR: Agnieszka Flak
DATED: 25th November 2008