The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) published its latest annual statistics on power generation in South Africa, showing that the country spent a significant amount of time in 2020 dealing with power cuts.
The report shows that 2020 saw 859 hours of load shedding – seemingly the most intense year of blackouts yet.
“In 2020, load shedding occurred for 859 hours of the year (9.8%) with an upper limit of 1,798 GWh relative to actually achieved energy shed of 1,269 GWh,” the CSIR said.
The most intensive load shedding was seen before the Covid-19 lockdown, which accounted for 63% of all load shedding seen in 2020. Most of this was stage 2 load shedding, the research body said.
The council also pointed to data that shows that Eskom’s power output capabilities have steadily decreased over the last three years.
It said that Eskom’s fleet had an annual average Energy Availability Factor (EAF) of 65%. in 2020, compared to 66.9% in 2019 and 71.9% in 2018.
The EAF is a measure of the availability of Eskom current fleet of power stations,
In 2020, the EAF comprised planned maintenance at 11.2% (PCLF), unplanned outages at 20.9% (UCLF) and other outages at 2.8% (OCLF).
The best hourly EAF of 78.8% was achieved on 10 Jun 2020 and worst of 51.7% on 31 Dec 2020, the CSIR said.
Could get worse
In a January interview, energy expert Chris Yelland said South Africa experienced the worst load-shedding on record in 2020 and that he expects 2021 to be even worse.
Yelland said he does not expect the problem of electricity shortages and load-shedding to improve in the short term.
“Government procurements of new generation capacity, that means the so-called 2000 megawatts of risk mitigation IPP programme, is about to be adjudicated,” he said.
“But then still, orders have to be placed and financial closure has to be achieved – that can typically take six months.”
After these processes, delivery must happen, construction must be done, and the new power must be connected to the grid.
Yelland said the government is touting the end of 2022 for this to happen, but he thinks it is very optimistic.
“I don’t think we can see any improvement before the end of 2022, perhaps even longer,” he said.
On Wednesday (10 March), Eskom announced that stage 2 load shedding will be implemented until Friday, with warnings that it may continue over the weekend.
The current round of load-shedding has been attributed to continued poor performance at the Kusile, Duvha, and Tutuka power stations, as well as delays in returning some other units to service and continued breakdowns over the past week.
Eskom said it has had to extensively use its emergency generation reserves and these have been rapidly depleted.
“This period of load-shedding will be used to replenish the emergency generation reserves,” Eskom said.