After eight consecutive days of stage 4 load shedding, Eskom has reduced the rolling blackouts to stage 2 – but these dark times are far from over.
This is according to Intellidex analyst, Peter Attard Montalto, who broke down the crisis in a note on Thursday (21 March).
Currently, around 17,000 MW of Eskom’s generation capacity is offline for unplanned maintenance, driven by boiler leaks, poor ash handling and other damage due to poor coal quality and other related issues.
However, beyond this, Attard Montalto said that there are also efficiency problems with Eskom as a whole, where its working systems only output 40% of what it should. There also appears to be some form of (non-physical) sabotage, where anecdotal evidence points to union workers “going slow”.
“There are serious inefficiencies remaining particularly given the lack of experience of many plant managers as well as long delays in how Rotek (Eskom’s maintenance arm) operates. We have heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that Rotek often takes twice as long as they should and often parts are delayed,” he said.
Because of this, load shedding is unavoidable, though for how long remains uncertain.
Using Eskom’s system updates, which shows capacity forecasts in the short-term, Attard Montalto said that the current situation will continue until mid-year.
“However the harder the system is run and the more load shedding there is, the more damage, in turn, is done to the system. Hence we could well see load shedding continue well into Q3,” he said.
Where is government?
The department of public enterprises and Eskom held a press briefing on Tuesday (19 March) to address the ongoing power crisis, but provided little to no answers on the issue, nor a plan forward for the country.
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said that the department needed two weeks to assess the problem and deliver feedback – a position that raised eyebrows among analysts and energy experts.
Gordhan said that a group of engineers were currently visiting the country’s power stations to get an independent assessment of the problems, which is what is taking time.
The minister said that there was no magic wand to make the power crisis go away and that it would be a huge struggle to overcome the crisis. He gave no indication for when the current round of daily load shedding would come to an end.
According to Attard Montalto, government’s response (or lack thereof) to the crisis is telling.
“Load shedding appears, as much as we have dug, to be having no impact at all on wider energy policy,” he said.
” Government could very easily be giving some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel by accelerating a larger and more aggressive (independent power producer) window, promulgating the small scale embedded generation regulations, or Nersa could be moving on with regulatory changes required to accelerate IPPs outside of renewables.
This is simply not happening, Attard Montalto said – likely due to a mixture of political blockages with the elections coming up, combined with the sheer lack of capacity in the department of energy and public enterprises, and Nersa.
“Government is providing no hope at all, even if nothing can be done short term,” he said.