South Africans shouldn’t get their hopes up, experts warn

 ·18 Jul 2023

The Eskom power crisis requires expectations to be managed as everyday South Africans are facing an onslaught of positive news from politicians but worrisome outlooks from analysts.

Martin Kingston, the chairperson of the Resource Mobilisation Fund (RMF) said that the process of resolving load shedding is long-winded and current fluctuations in blackouts, as seen recently, would likely last until the end of next year.

Speaking to ENCA, Kingston said that expectations need to be managed and what the power utility promises in terms of progress or improvement.

The RMF refers to a collaboration between the government and the private sector in which, since 10 March, private business groups contribute assistance to the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) in the form of skilled legal, project management and engineering teams – among others.

The fund has secured R100 million in support for the Presidency’s efforts to curtail load shedding.

Kingston said that progress is taking place in terms of the energy action plan and NECOM; however, addressing load shedding will take time.

Talk of managing expectations follows comments from the Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, stating that South Africa’s energy action plan is bearing fruit and lower stages of load shedding could lead to an abundance of energy.

On 9 July, the minister said that Eskom’s performance during the winter period so far has seemingly dodged the warnings of higher levels. The day after these comments, however, South Africa was pushed back to stage 6 load shedding after sitting around stages 2 and 3 for a while.

Moving back stage 6 load shedding was due to the utility, “dropping the ball from a planning point of view in relation to the replenishing of the open-cycle gas turbines,” said Ramokgopa. 

Pieter Jordaan, an energy analyst, said that Eskom’s energy supply can change on a whim in light of a cold front or an unexpected breakdown.

Jordaan said that there is a ‘razor-thin’ buffer of reserve energy capacity maintained by Eskom, which has been proven to be inadequate when faced with a cold snap.

Ramokgopa refuted claims suggesting the power utility is not making progress.

During a media address this week, the minister said that gradual but meaningful progress is being made.

He said the utility is expecting a return of 5,000 megawatts of electricity on Tuesday (18 July) while resolving the issue of storing diesel.

The ruling party, the ANC, echoed Ramokgopa’s optimism with Mahelngi Bhengu-Motsiri, a spokesperson for the political party, saying that it is pleased with the government’s efforts to take on load shedding and positive progress has been made.

“There are huge improvements in terms of the sustainability of the grid is concerned, in terms of the energy availability factor, the work that’s being done on the generation and transmission.”

However, energy experts have warned the country not to get complacent, saying that higher stages of load shedding are likely to return once again.

Speaking to 702, Energy Analyst Clyde Mallinson said that there’s a high likelihood that the country reach high levels of load shedding again at some point during the winter, largely because little has been done, foundationally, to improve the power situation.

“Here we sit 18 months later and we haven’t finished one of the refurbishments of one of the units yet,” he said.

Instead, Eskom has relied on energy users to lower demand, cutting back planned maintenance, and the burning of diesel to make do.

Other warnings sirens are also blaring – particularly around the Koeberg Nuclear refurbishment which is again running behind schedule. Flagged by Ramogkopa in his address, there are now concerns that both units of the plant will be offline at once, adding even more stress to the grid going into 2024.

Read: Jan Oberholzer leaving Eskom

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter