Good news for Eskom and load shedding – for now

 ·2 May 2024

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says that Eskom has achieved an energy availability factor (EAF) of over 65%, but load shedding is still expected to return as long-term problems cause setbacks.

The EAF (Energy Availability Factor) is an essential performance metric for Eskom as it directly affects load-shedding.

When the EAF decreases, the amount of power available also reduces, which often leads to load-shedding.

Eskom’s EAF has been declining for several years due to inadequate maintenance practices at power stations and an increase in equipment breakdowns. However, Eskom’s EAF has been increasing in recent weeks, resulting in a load-shedding-free April.

According to Ramokgopa, the achievement of an EAF of 65.5%, which was last attained in 2021, confirms the success of the aggressive maintenance-led recovery strategy.

The minister said this milestone validates the viability of the Eskom fleet of generation units and signifies the most efficient path to ending load shedding.

He added that the electricity grid’s performance has been successful, and the focus now is on maintaining and improving it.

Ramokgopa also noted the return of Medupi Unit 4 (800MW), Koeberg Unit 2 (980MW), and the synchronisation of Kusile Unit 6 (800MW).

“These three generation units will add 2,580 MW to the grid in the next six months, which will help reduce load-shedding,” he said.

The Minister stated that these improvements mean the peak load-shedding has been resolved.

South Africa provided tax incentives last year to encourage the installation of rooftop solar energy systems, and as a result, the country is expected to achieve a 6,000 MW capacity by the end of the year.

Despite the good news, energy experts, and even Ramokgopa himself, have warned load shedding will return.

Energy expert Chris Yelland explained that intermittent load-shedding will continue until the utility’s long-term problems are resolved.

He said the improved performance is due to the re-introduction of three units at Kusile power station to the grid and less demand as a result of the big shift to solar.

However, Yelland said that Eskom temporarily reconnected Kusile’s units through a bypass of the flue-gas desulphurisation plant, which is responsible for limiting the release of sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants.

The bypass is only a temporary solution. To implement a long-term solution, Eskom will have to take Kusile’s units offline again, or else It will be breaking the law.

Ramokgopa also previously mentioned that it is in the nature of the space Eskom operates in to have setbacks.

“We are still working on the reliability of these machines, and that’s why you can’t confidently say load-shedding is behind us. That would be a false claim, and it can’t be substantiated.”

Additionally, Professor Hartmut Winkler from the University of Johannesburg said load-shedding would return despite lower demand from South African businesses and households.

Speaking to SABC News, Winkler said despite the lower demand, winter’s electricity demand in South Africa is around 6,000 MW higher than during summer.

As a result, he expects  South Africa to oscillate between stages 1 and 3 during winter.

Eskom, in its Winter 2024 Outlook presentation, also said South Africans will likely see load-shedding this winter, but it would probably be limited to stage 2.

Read: R10 billion solar plan coming to South Africa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter