How Eskom is managing to keep load shedding suspended

 ·8 Apr 2024

Despite Eksom’s energy availability factor (EAF) sitting at a 20-year low, South Africa has experienced almost two weeks without load shedding – which an energy analyst says is simply a result of declining demand and not by the grace of Eskom.

When the Eskom board was appointed, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan gave it the mandate to increase the EAF to 75%.

In response, acting Eskom chair Mpho Makwana in January last year said It would take at least two years to improve the EAF from the current 58% to 70% – announcing goals of a 60% EAF by 31 March 2023, then 65% EAF by 31 March 2024 and 70% by 31 March 2025.

However, instead of improving, it deteriorated.

It has been a year since the former Eskom chairman unveiled their EAF targets, and data presented by energy analyst Chris Yelland and EE Business Intelligence shows Eskom failed its target miserably.

Against a target of 65%, Eskom’s actual EAF for the 2024 financial year was 54.68% – missing its goal by just over 10 percentage points.

Yelland added the EAF for the last month of the 2024 financial year (March 2024) was 54.63%, and the EAF for the last week of March 2024 was 57.34%.

Interestingly, Yelland also pointed out that while unplanned breakdowns (UCLF) are down this year compared to last year, this is offset by increased planned maintenance outages (PCLF) compared to the same period last year.

This means the availability of the Eskom fleet (EAF) this year is about the same as last year.

Why we’re experiencing no load shedding

EAF is a core performance metric for Eskom because it is directly linked to load-shedding. When the EAF declines, less power is available, which typically leads to load-shedding.

However, despite the dismal EAF, South Africans have experienced 12 consecutive days (as of Monday, 8 April) without load shedding – and counting.

While some were quick to commend Eskom for this, Yelland noted the answer is that demand for Eskom grid electricity continues to decline in South Africa.

He further listed five main contributors to the decline in demand:

  1. The weak South African economy results in a generally flat overall demand for electricity.
  2. Rapidly rising Eskom and municipal electricity prices above the inflation rate are dampening demand for Eskom-generated electricity.
  3. Load shedding and low reliability of Eskom and municipal grid electricity are negatively impacting electricity supply.
  4. Electricity customers are moving to self-generation and alternative energy sources, including rooftop PV, battery energy storage, gas for cooking, solar hot water geysers, energy efficiency and general reduction in demand for grid electricity.
  5. The pipeline of big renewable energy and battery storage plants is now coming to the grid, and this is accelerating.

“This relieves Eskom of a burden that it has been struggling to meet over the last few years, resulting in a significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of load shedding this year compared to the same period last year,” he said.

Driving this point home, Yelland showed that despite the reduction in load shedding, Eskom’s total electricity produced in Gigawatt-hours over the 2023 financial year ending March 2024 reached a 20-year low.

But there is reason for optimism, Yelland added.

“The growing multi-party consensus in Parliament on the passage of the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill is positive. This will provide the necessary legal, policy, regulatory and planning framework for the envisaged reforms.

“The pace of reform in the electricity supply industry of South Africa is now gathering momentum, driven by the need for decarbonisation and security of supply, and the reality of the economic imperatives,” he said.

Read: New load shedding stages for South Africa – the big changes, and the big problems

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter