Good news and bad news for load shedding in 2024

 ·9 Jan 2024

South Africa is guaranteed to experience load shedding again this year – but current projections show that the situation is likely to be far less severe than what was seen in 2023.

The start of the new year has already been mired by earlier-than-expected power outages, with Eskom announcing the return of load shedding on 1 January 2024 after several units broke down amid elevated levels of planned maintenance.

According to independent energy analyst Pieter Jordaan, Eskom took around 8,000MW of its generating plant out for planned maintenance over the final fortnight of 2023 but was unable to return many of the units on time in the first week of 2024.

“Its plant availability was further crimped by escalating breakdown levels – rising from 12,000MW to 16,000MW over that same period – leaving its coal fleet as crippled as last year,” he said.

However, with demand lower than ever before, the blackout levels were somewhat subdued, especially when compared to the same period in 2023.

Using Jordaan’s blackout modelling, South Africans experienced 0.7 days – or 17.5 hours – in the dark in the first week of 2024, effectively half the 1.32 days recorded in the same week in 2023.

According to energy experts, load shedding during this week could have been avoided altogether had Eskom not overreached on its planned maintenance.

National Rationalised Specifications Association of South Africa’s (NRS) Vally Padayachee said that the country was thrust back into darkness because Eskom had taken more generation capacity out for planned maintenance than needed.

Jordaan, meanwhile, noted that Eskom suffers from “chronic delays in the return of units from planned maintenance”, explaining the shortfalls.

More positively, however, while load shedding and Eskom’s planned and unplanned outage issues are expected to persist in 2024, the good news is that the current trend pro-rates to “only” around 38 accumulated days of blackouts by year-end – this is compared to the 72.6 days experienced in 2023.

On average, South Africans spent less than 30 minutes per day without power in 2021, compared to 2.25 hours in 2022 and 4.8 hours in 2023.

“Based on the current pro-rata projection, 2024 may moderate to 2.5 blackout hours per day,” Jordaan said.

While load shedding may moderate – even significantly – in 2024, the fact remains that scheduled outages are still going to be a prominent feature of the year.

Energy experts pointed out this past week that the government’s new energy plan to try and build an energy-secure future for the country includes the caveat that supply will likely fall short for at least the next four years – even if everything goes according to plan.

In reality, there are doubts that even that can be achieved.

According to Eskom’s latest system status report (for the final week of 2023), the outlook remains squarely ‘code red’, with the next 52 weeks showing high-risk levels for energy shortfalls for the whole year if the group cannot get unplanned breakdowns under control.

Read: Eskom shoots itself in the foot

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter