The total economic impact of load shedding in South Africa could be as high as as R338 billion over the past 10 years, according to new research from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
In a presentation delivered this week by the CSIR Energy Centre, the group noted how South Africa had experienced the worst year of load shedding on record in 2019, where blackouts persisted for a total of 1,352 GWh – or 530 hours.
It was also the first time that Stage 6 load shedding was implemented – a level at which over a third of Eskom’s total capacity was offline.
In 2019 alone, the impact on the economy was substantial, with the CSIR estimating that between R60 billion and R120 billion was wiped from the economy.
Looking at all records of load shedding in South Africa – dating back to 2007 – the CSIR calculated that the total economic impact over the period is between R167 billion and R338 billion.
Load shedding is expected to continue for 2-3 years depending on key decisions/actions from government, the CSIR said, adding that an urgent response is necessary to ensure short-term adequacy and set South Africa on a path towards long-term adequacy in the 2020s.
“Systemic changes in Eskom fleet performance expectation and demand forecast requires an updated understanding of capacity and energy gap relative to the assumptions in the Integrated Resource Plan published in 2019,” it said.
According tot he CSIR’s research, Eskom’s energy availability (EAF) has been on a declining trend since 2001, and after a brief spike in 2016, has continued down this path over the last year.
At this stage, this trend seems irreversible, with the CSIR noting that none of the IRP 2018 plans had come to fruition, bringing into question the likelihood of any of the IRP 2019 plans becoming a reality.
The graphic below shows how South Africa’s installed power capacity compares to peak and low power demand (represented by the top and bottom dotted lines) – and how declining EAF significantly increases the risk of load shedding.
The CSIR said that while gazetted plans to build new capacity in the country will boost supply, because of lead times – the wait period for new capacity to come online – in a best-case scenario, the country will sit with a supply gap until 2022.
The full CSIR presentation can be viewed below: