The truth behind Eskom’s load shedding success

 ·16 Apr 2024

Data published by Eskom tracking the performance of its fleet for the first quarter of the year shows that while the group has improved breakdowns and slightly boosted energy supply, tanking demand has given South Africa some breathing room.

Detailed analysis of Eskom’s data by independent energy analyst Pieter Jordaan shows that first quarter power demand in 2024 was 5.7% lower than the same period in the previous year, dropping from 25.95 to 24.47 GW/hr.

Power Demand

For the same period, power supply only increased by a marginal 0.4% from 23.24 GW/hr in 2023 to 23.33 GW/hr in 2024.

Notably, Compared to 2023, power supply remained stagnant, posting near-identical output for 10 out of the first 13 weeks of the year.

Power Supply

Thanks to the drop in demand, the deficit – or supply gap – narrowed by 58% from 2.703 GW/hr in 2023Q1 to 1.134 GW/hr in 2024Q1, Jordaan said.

“The improved outlook caused the blackout rate to halve from 25.8% in 2023Q1 to 13.2% in 2024Q1. The dramatic change in demand is primarily due to rooftop solar installations driven by unreliable supply and extreme tariff increases,” he said.

A precipitous demand slump started in September 2023, hitting a record -1.96 GW/hr in Week 13 (31 March 2024), with the 13-week average sliding 1.5 GW/hr over the past six months.

“The slump created space for Eskom to take more generating units offline for planned maintenance. In 2023Q1, the planned maintenance rate was 11.5% compared to 16.0% in 2024Q1. This caused its plant breakdown levels to improve from 33.7% in 2023Q1 to 30.6% in 2024Q1.”

Weekly power demand has not yet exceeded 25.1 GW/hr this year so far, lagging the historic baseline by 1.2 GW/hr.

Week 13 witnessed a record 1.5 GW/h drop in demand compared to the previous week. This was brought on by additional holidaymaking just before Easter.

Demand Divergence

Twisting the story

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has held weekly media briefings attributing Eskom’s turnaround to the group’s elevated maintenance regime, which he added was also behind the low energy availability factor (EAF).

He previously said that if the maintenance schedule were halved, Eskom would have reached its March 2024 target of 65%, and would be on the path to the 2025 target of 70%.

However, looking at the numbers, Jordaan said that this would not be the case.

“Eskom maintained an average PCLF (planned outages/maintenance) of 16% over the first 13 weeks of 2024. Eskom’s historic baseline for planned maintenance – derived from five years of annual projections at the beginning of each year – required an average 14.5% PCLF so far this year, only 1.5 points below the achieved average.


“Even if the utility had cut its maintenance in half, this would only have boosted its EAF to 60.5%,” he said.

60% EAF was the target set by Eskom for March 2023, which it only hit once (October 2023), and has not managed to achieve since.

Energy Availability

Jordaan said that the only way to get EAF up would be to reduce breakdowns and other unplanned outages. Eskom’s breakdown level (UCLF) has only dropped 3.1 points, compared to its second-worst quarterly performance of 33.7% in 2023Q1.

Energy regulator Nersa requires Eskom to keep breakdowns below 20% – something it has not achieved in a very long time.

“A boosted PCLF holds the promise of an improved EAF, but its delivery hinges on sustained momentum to first reach the 20% UCLF previously mandated by NERSA for the FY2023/24 just passed,” Jordaan said.


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