SANSA and Eskom Sign a Space Weather Services MoU

On Wednesday 15 April 2015, SANSA and Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during a ceremony at Eskom National Control in Simmerpan. The MoU was formulated against the background of the collaboration between Eskom and SANSA to manage the potential impact of space weather on the Eskom Interconnected Power System (IPS).

Space weather is associated with conditions on the sun which can result in radiation bursts, geomagnetic field changes, and concomitant induced electric fields on the surface of the earth. The geo-electric field causes a potential difference on the surface of the earth, which may result in low-frequency currents in any conductors such as power lines on the surface of the earth. Such currents are known as Geomagnetically Induced Currents (GICs). When these currents flow in power lines and to the ground via grounded power transformers, they can cause extensive damage to power transformers and create instability of the IPS. Space weather can also impact the communication, control, and time synchronisation systems used in the IPS.

Previous incidents of extreme space weather have highlighted a number of vulnerabilities to energy utilities worldwide in the design, planning, and operation of their electricity infrastructure and pipelines. The Eskom Solar Storm Resilience Project was initiated in August 2011 to assist Eskom to formulate an appropriate response and recovery plan for a low-probability solar event that might have a high impact on the IPS.

The scope of the project includes the management of the impact before and after the disturbance and the establishment of the emergency and crisis communication protocols to protect the continuity of supply and reputation of Eskom during a significant solar event. The MoU expresses the importance of cooperation in the field of space weather with relation to operational aspects of the effect of adverse space weather on the IPS and the need to facilitate cooperation to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

SANSA and Eskom have committed to negotiate in good faith and enter into separate agreements/contracts for the purpose of implementing specific areas of cooperation envisaged in the MoU, which include data acquisition and data communication, space weather incident management, implementation of space weather tools and research into GICs.

The SANSA and Eskom team who attended the signing of the MoU.

The MoU also covers collaboration on publications, protocols for communicating space weather events, warnings to the public and creating public awareness of the potential impact of space weather events on the IPS. In addition, SANSA has agreed to provide support on the interpretation of space weather events, training of Eskom personnel on space weather and the modelling of GICs as well as conducting joint testing of protocols and procedures with other affected Parties to ensure the viability and effectiveness of mitigation measures.

Vaneshree Maharaj