7 things that could see load shedding return in the next few months

Eskom has called on consumers to save energy over the summer period as the risk of load shedding remains.

The power utility warned that its power system “remains tight and vulnerable” because of increased maintenance.

The group has also seen increasing cases of vandalism on its equipment, while illegal connections are increasing, chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer said on Wednesday (4 September).

Oberholzer said that the state company was able to run for 164 straight days without implementing power cuts, but he highlighted the biggest risks that could see rolling blackouts return.

This has been a key factor in South Africa’s reported GDP growth of 3.1% over the last quarter, after load shedding led to a contraction in the first quarter of the year.

During the period, all six units of the Medupi power station were connected to the grid, with the last unit – Medupi 1 – synchronised to the grid in late August.

Despite this, Eskom warned that the power system will remain tight and vulnerable during the summers months, as the group conducts maintenance that it holds off during the peak winter months.

“The high temperature will also impact some power stations due to a high aircon load throughout the day,” the group said.

An average of 5,500MW planned maintenance will be performed in the summer, with the aim to keep unplanned outages below 9,500MW to avoid load shedding. An increased use of diesel and pumped storage hydro plants (emergency reserves) will be used to supplement capacity over this period, Eskom said.

However, the risk of load shedding remains, and there are several things that could result in the return of load shedding:

  • New trips and breakdowns at plants (such as boiler tube leaks, etc);
  • Higher vacuum levels due to high temperatures;
  • Delays in returning plants to service after planned outages;
  • Over-reliance on emergency resources for consecutive days – this could impact dam levels for hydro power and diesel reserves;
  • Increased illegal connections, vandalism and equipment theft, which will impact network performance;
  • Severe weather conditions which could impact local operations or imports;
  • Any other macro factors – such as protests or strike action, which could destabilise the grid.

“Eskom is committed to recovering its operational performance. The generation 9-point recovery plan is on track and yielded some positive results,” the group said.

“The summer plan will be reviewed on a regular basis in response to changes on the system performance.”

Read: ‘Too big to fail’ makes Eskom debt a good bet

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7 things that could see load shedding return in the next few months