Another positive shift for load shedding in South Africa

 ·11 Jul 2023

While bitterly cold weather in South Africa has pushed power demand up in the country – necessitating a move back to stage 4 load shedding – the latest available blackout data shows a positive shift in projections for the year.

According to the latest Power Availability Statistics compiled by independent energy analyst, Pieter Jordaan, South Africa’s projected blackout hours for 2023 have been slowly dropping, pulling back from an expected 100 full days of blackouts to 87 days.

“Accumulated outages stand at 45 whole days for a second week. Over the past five weeks, however, the projection for 2023 has shrunk considerably; from an annual total of 100 days on 4 June to only 87 days currently,” Jordaan said.

Despite the positive shift, however, it is worth noting that 2023 has already been a record year for load shedding, with the country experiencing more blackout hours than 2022 and 2021 combined (45 days in 2023 vs 41 days in 2021 + 2022).

For an even greater context, between 2014 and 2022, the country experienced a total of 53 days of accumulated blackout hours – versus the 45 days experienced in 2023 alone.

While South Africans more commonly use total hours of load shedding to gauge how bad outages are in the country, Jordaan’s data looks at more impactful points like blackout hours (i.e., actual time spent in the dark) and the Power Availability Ratio (PAR) of the grid.

PAR represents the time consumers have utility power available after deducting the load shedding outage times, expressed as a percentage. At 100%, households have full access to grid power. Every 7% below that point represents a full stage of load shedding where power is taken away.

According to Jordaan, the PAR-7 (weekly view) and PAR-28 (monthly view) have both managed to hold their ground above the 90% mark (an average of stage 1 load shedding) for the past four weeks.

However, he noted that the small weekly deteriorations observed over the previous three weeks have continued.

“Even though the overall w-o-w availability remained at 91%, the standard availability (ie, time with no load shedding) has fallen again from 48% in week 26, to 43% in current week 27,” he said.

The analyst noted that over the past four weeks, the availability of diesel has enabled the extensive use of OCGT power generation, which has helped to avoid up to 3 stages of day-time load shedding and stage 6 over evening peaks on a number of days.

Over a longer-term view, the school holidays are helping to keep power demand below the seasonal average, he said.

While Eskom’s forecast predicts that daily demand may moderate further until the end of July, the recent spike in demand due to the cold weather could throw a spanner in the works and keep stage 4 load shedding around for longer.

This would only feed through the data in the weeks to come.

Eskom announced on Monday (10 July) that stage 2 and 4 load shedding would be rotated until further notice. Stage 2 load shedding will be in effect from 05h00 to 14h00 during the day, and stage 4 will kick in from 14h00, running overnight to 05h00 the next day.

Read: South Africa is living the ‘best-case scenario’ for load shedding

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