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06/03/2008, South Africa - "Eskom may call for two time zones to spread demand",
Cape Argus, South Africa, by John Yeld

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Eskom may call for two time zones to spread demand.

Eskom's study of daylight saving as a way of spreading the peak demand period for power - one way of reducing the threat of load-shedding - is expected to be completed this month.

The study could recommend that South Africa be divided into two permanent time zones.

This was revealed by Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica in response to a parliamentary question by DA environment spokesman Gareth Morgan.

Morgan asked whether a study had been done to assess the viability of instituting daylight saving; whether the government had any intention of instituting daylight saving; and what the cost implications were of such an initiative.

Sonjica said studies of daylight savings had been conducted in 1986 by the CSIR and again in 2006 by Eskom.

"The conclusions of those studies were that there would not be any significant impact on the energy consumption, either in the reduction on the peak demand or reduction on the base-load power, as a result of the introduction of daylight saving."

But it was accepted that the findings of these studies were now dated, and a new study by Eskom, commissioned by the Department of Public Enterprises, was expected to be completed this month, Sonjica said.

"The current position may be reconsidered if the new study recommends such. This will take into account attendant potential socio-economic impacts on a national scale and provide a cost-benefit analysis."

There have been arguments for some form of daylight saving for decades - mainly from the eastern half of the country and cities like Durban, which experiences a very "early" dawn and an equally "early" darkness.

Advancing the clock by an hour would allow this half of the country a more "normal" daylight/night-time split, but would make for very long evenings - in summer - for the western half of the country.

In September 2006, former Eskom council member and electrical engineer Professor Christo Viljoen urged the government to consider seriously his proposal that the country be split into two time zones to stagger peak-hour demand on Eskom.

Viljoen emphasised that he was talking about permanent time zones, not daylight savings.

"Just one hour's difference would have a major impact on the electricity supply in this country," he argued.

He proposed putting clocks back by an hour in the western half of the country, where the sun rises and sets about 50 minutes later than in the east.

Varying time zones worked well in other countries, such as the US, which has five, Russia, which has seven, and Australia, which has three, Viljoen said.

Earlier this year, Eskom chief operating officer Brian Dames told Parliament they were studying the potential benefits of daylight saving in efforts to find power-saving mechanisms to relieve the electricity crunch.

Dames, who appeared unenthusiastic about the possibility, said evidence to date suggested such a move would not actually save electricity but would "shift" about 200MW of demand to a different time.

He said Eskom had looked at the issue of having differing permanent time zones.

"In the past, the bulk of electricity use was in Gauteng, so it made no sense to introduce daylight saving (for this purpose). But now that the structure of the economy is changing, with in-creased economic activity elsewhere, it may be worth revisiting," he said.

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