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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 13:44 GMT
Two time zones 'to save SA power'
Woman using candle in a shop
South Africans are getting used to using candles
South Africa could be split into two time zones to ease a crippling energy crisis, a top official has said.

This would stagger peak demand across the country, the director of public enterprise told parliament.

Portia Molefe said the move could lead to an energy saving of about 200 MW but that the idea needed further study.

Last month Minerals and Energy Minister Bujelwa Sonjica said South Africans should consider going to bed early to save electricity.

Ms Molefe said having two time zones had been considered in the past but had been dropped because most of South Africa's industry was all in the same area - Gauteng.

But she said there was now enough industry in the Western Cape to make it worth considering the option.

News stand in Cape Town 21 January 2008
Middle-class suburbs are not as used to the power outages

Meanwhile, state power company Eskom has announced that it will not approve connections for major new constructions for up to six months to ease pressure on its supplies.

Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger said the company would honour already signed contracts but would not consider new applications.

The BBC's Peter Greste in Johannesburg says this is bad news for investors and developers hoping to go ahead with new projects.

It is also worrying for the government which was counting on sustained economic growth to ease a massive unemployment problem, he says.

The business community fears that the move will push investors to look elsewhere to spend their money.

Power cuts have wreaked havoc on businesses and industries and disrupted the country's mining sector, raising fears of job losses.

Breaking point

But Eskom says too much development could push its over-stretched capacity to breaking point, and is asking for time to increase its capacity.

The company hopes to double its capacity by 2011, by reviving three stalled coal stations and building two new ones.

Coal is used to generate about 90% of electricity supplies at state power company Eskom.

New housing developments and schools will not be affected.

The company has also promised that the electricity crisis will not affect the 2010 World Cup.

The acute electricity crisis has been blamed on years of under-investment by the government and rising demand.

South Africa has already reduced electricity supplies to its neighbours, affecting countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia.

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