Eskom details plans for winter load shedding in South Africa

Energy group Eskom has outlined its plans for winter load shedding, based on current usage and trajectories.

Presenting to parliament on Wednesday (3 June), chief executive officer Andre de Ruyter said that the coronavirus lockdown has led to a direct decline in electricity usage in the country.

He added that there has been a clear increase in electricity usage since the move to level 4 lockdown.

De Ruyter said that the lockdown also provided Eskom with an opportunity to conduct maintenance on its plants, with the power utility’s new base scenario shifting from an envisaged 31 days of stage 1 load shedding to just three days during the winter period.

However, De Ruyter stressed that Eskom’s systems are still unpredictable.

“It is important to recognise that due to the unreliability and unpredictability of the system, the risk of load shedding remains,” he said.

“This will be the reality until after the 18 months of reliability maintenance, which will last until August 2021.”

The below graph – taken from Eskom’s presentation to parliament – indicates the capacity outlook before the lockdown period (December 2019 to March 2021).

The black line is the forecast demand, the light blue shaded area the available capacity, the pink area the available gas capacity, the yellow area the untouchable reserve to ensure system integrity, the green area the planned outages, and the orange area the unplanned breakdowns and system losses.

It indicates a significant amount of diesel usage and load shedding.

The graph below indicates the capacity outlook after the lockdown period with the positive impact of the short-term urgent maintenance.

Eskom emphasized that the outlook is based on whether it is successful in limiting the unplanned breakdowns and system losses below 7,000 MW.

As a result, this is a very optimistic scenario based on the fact that the generation system remains unpredictable and unreliable due to more than a decade of neglect.

Winter load shedding

Eskom said that the current outlook is three days of stage 1 (1,000 MW) load shedding during the month of July where the demand is forecast to be approximately 33,600 MW should the power utility be in a position to limit the unplanned breakdowns and system losses to below 11,000 MW.

This is based on an 80% probability, it said. The group added that stage 1 and 2 load shedding in winter is expected to have less of an impact on the economy than summer load shedding because:

  • It will likely only be required during the evening peak (usually 17h00 – 20h00);
  • Load shedding schedules are staggered which means that customers are not impacted on consecutive days;
  • Large industrial customers are unlikely to be impacted.

Unbundling 

De Ruyter also gave an update on Eskom’s plan to unbundled into separate transmission, generation and distribution units.

He noted that while Eskom had already made internal appointments and had begun restructuring, the process was hampered by the long legal process.

“Legal separation is a complicated process,” he said.

“Some of the timelines in the roadmap have been quite aggressive and we have targeted some slightly relaxed timelines but we are managing this very closely.”


Read: Johannesburg warns of electricity ‘load rotation’

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Eskom details plans for winter load shedding in South Africa