Electricity blackout causes a scare

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Back online… Ruacana hydro-electrical plant in the Omusati Region was said to have restarted after minor technical difficulties with the reburbishment of four turbines yesterday.

Windhoek

Namibia’s power utility, Nampower, said the power outages experienced yesterday across large parts of Namibia were the result of a new turbine fitted at the Ruacana Hydroelectric plant, which caused the power supply to trip.

While some of the major towns were without electricity for an hour or two, it was rumoured that South African power supplier Eskom – which supplies an estimated 60 percent of Namibia’s electricity needs – cut that supply line due to debts running into millions of dollars.

However, the spokesperson of that country’s International Relations and Cooperation Department, Clayson Monyela, told New Era that the government was not aware of any such cut by Eskom. “We would know before anything like that happened, because it involves another country and at this stage we’re not aware of such things,” Monyela said in a telephonic interview yesterday.

“They do not have to consult us for our permission on the decisions they make, but when it comes to that, we would know,” Monyela stated.

The Ruacana hydroelectric power plant supplies a significant chunk of the country’s electricity needs and at around midday towns, such as Windhoek, Tsumeb, Otjiwarongo, Oshakati and Okahandja and some in the south were hit by electricity outages that lasted for over an hour. The problem was soon fixed though.

Nampower acting managing director Simson Haulofu said routine maintenance work was underway at the Ruacana plant. “We’re now fixing the problem which was caused by one of our turbines. I do not know where people got the story that we owe Eskom… We do not owe them any money,” Haulofu said.

“We informed Eskom of the problem we’re experiencing, but we do not owe them any money,” he confirmed.

New Era also contacted the Eskom management team, where officials denied any knowledge of the deliberate power cuts. However, shortly after that Eskom also issued two statements via Twitter, supporting what Haulofu said.

“Eskom is aware of a power outage in Namibia. The outage happened as NamPower was doing maintenance on its power distribution network,” one tweet read. In a second statement the SA energy behemoth wrote: “Eskom supports the statement issued by Nampower on the matter. Importantly, Nampower doesn’t owe Eskom.”

In response to the rumours swirling around Minister of Mines and Energy Obeth M Kandjoze said: “What we suspect happened is that the Ruacana units have been undergoing refurbishment on all its four units, with the last one scheduled to be brought back on stream today after numerous successful tests. At implementing that process a breaker allowing the flow of power malfunctioned, causing the generator to go into reverse mode and that could cause damage to the equipment.

“That meant of course that the entire country had to be put off the transmission line to ensure a successful start-up process. That start-up process has commenced and this is why parts of the country are back on the grid…

“I am assured that about 50% of the country is back on right now and I shall do my best to keep updated on further progress.”

 

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