Power utility Eskom says that it has not announced permanent stage 2 and 3 load shedding in South Africa.
Responding to various reports on Sunday declaring permanent stage 2 and stage 3 load shedding is hitting the country for the next two years, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said that this was a measure that was considered but ultimately rejected.
“Eskom has considered implementing permanent Stage 2 and 3 load shedding to give more predictability to the public. As (chief executive) Andrè de Ruyter stated during the session, this is not possible as it would not guarantee that load shedding would remain at the lower levels,” he said.
“(Headlines implying) there will be permanent stage 2 and 3 load shedding (are) inaccurate.”
The apparent confusion over permanent load shedding emanates from comments made by Eskom chairperson Mpho Makwana who stated that permanent load shedding would have to be implemented to give Eskom room to conduct necessary maintenance to its power stations and to give some level of predictability or consistency to South Africans impacted by blackouts.
He said that Eskom’s recovery plan would unfortunately not play out quickly and that it would take at least two years for the power utility to get its energy availability factor (EAF) up to 70%.
“The recovery of generation performance will not happen within a short space of time, the execution of the recovery plan requires that power stations are given space and headroom to execute the recovery plan this requires either adding additional capacity to create space to do proper maintenance without firefighting , or create some predictability by implementing a permanent stage 2 or 3 for the next two years in order to give sufficient space for maintenance while giving the country a level of predictability or consistency to plan the livelihoods better. Shuttling from one stage to another within a short space of time is not good for the business community.”
As part of the recovery plan, Eskom will be addressing systemic issues, especially those relating to leadership and the entire organisational culture of the power utility, he said.
Makwena called on all South Africans to assist with the power crisis by using power sparingly. Over time, various strategies to help mitigate the crisis will be looked at, including rooftop solar rollout and using mini power stations.
Later during the same presentation, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said that permanent stage 2 and stage 3 load shedding would not guarantee that Eskom could keep load shedding at those levels, and that the instability of the grid would lead to instances of higher stages of load shedding.
He did not say that this plan was not happening, however – this was only clarified later.
Whether it is Eskom’s official plan to move to permanent load shedding or not is effectively moot. South Africa has been in a state of permanent load shedding since September 2022.
With the exception of a day or two over the festive period, South Africans have been subjected to load shedding every day since load shedding escalated in the last quarter of 2022, with stages ranging from stage 1 to stage 6.
So far, in 2023, load shedding has hit every single day of the year, with stage 6 implemented for the longest continuous period so far.
By all accounts – from analysts, economists, energy experts and Eskom itself – load shedding is not going away any time soon and is, in fact, expected to get worse before it gets better.
Experts have warned that the winter months will bring increased demand, and with a shortfall of close to 6,000MW – before counting planned maintenance and breakdowns – higher stages of load shedding are expected.
Speaking to the instability and unpredictability of the grid, Eskom’s planned load shedding schedule for the week ahead was again changed in the early hours of Monday morning (23 January) after two units broke down at Eskom’s power stations.
Load shedding will now remain at stage 3 for longer, and escalate to stage 4 in the evening. You can find the new schedules here.