South Africa has spent an entire month in the dark

 ·5 May 2023

The latest National Blackout Statistics for South Africa report shows that the average resident has spent 31.6 days in total darkness.

The statistics, compiled by independent energy analyst Pieter Jordaan, show that South Africans currently sit in full blackout for 6.33 hours every day.

Load shedding has been in effect for almost the entire year so far, with only one day of full suspension and some days with partial suspension.

Jordaan’s data shows that load shedding has been in effect for an average of 23 hours every day, with 16.7 hours spent in “rotation time”, where households and businesses are waiting for the blackouts.

Cumulatively, South Africans have spent just over 758 hours in the dark in 2023 so far, which is equal to a full month. Given that the data is to the end of April, this would be a quarter of the year so far.

To illustrate exactly how bad this is, Jordaan noted that it took the country almost an entire year to hit a similar level of blackouts, with 2023 expected to surpass 2022’s total soon.

Not only are South Africans experiencing blackout hours more frequently, they are happening for longer (4 hour blocks at stage 6). The average stage of load shedding is still at stage 4, but increasing ever higher as stage 6 load shedding persists and becomes more frequent.

Winter is coming

South Africans have had it drummed and beaten into them that load shedding is likely to get worse in the winter months ahead.

In winter, the daily peak electricity consumption increases from an average of 32,000MW in summer to 36,000MW. This is due to the extended use of electrical heating devices, lights, and geysers.

Researchers and analysts estimate that the power shortage during mid-winter will be 2,000MW more than in 2022. Therefore, there may be power outages of up to 8,000MW – the equivalent of stage 8 load shedding – on some days.

Others have given an even more bleak outlook, noting that demand could push up as high as 37,000MW, while Eskom is currently struggling to consistently generate 27,000MW, leaving a 10,000MW (stage 10) hole to be filled by load shedding.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said that Eskom is taking extra care to limit outages during winter when demand is expected to increase but called on electricity consumers to contribute to lowering demand by switching off home appliances and things such as geysers during peak times.

The Democratic Alliance has warned, however, that even when the winter months are over, load shedding won’t magically disappear and without interventions and plans in place, will likely remain elevated for the rest of the year.

Most of the mitigation efforts in place to curb load shedding will take time, with the quickest boost to the grid – the return of Koeberg Unit 1 – only expected in August.

Other measures, such are demand-side management contracts, new capacity builds, or the quicker return of units offline due to catastrophic failure at Medupi and Kusile, are only likely to deliver more energy from November onwards.

Until then, South Africans will have to rely on their own measures to mitigate outages as much as they can.

Read: Winter load shedding warning: From bad to worse – right back to bad

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