Load shedding warning for winter

 ·29 May 2024

Numerous energy experts have warned that while the current load shedding reprieve is welcomed, it will not last throughout the winter season.

South Africa has enjoyed two months of no load shedding in April and May. This is the longest period without power cuts since 2021.

Eskom highlighted that the last time South Africa had more than 51 days without load shedding was between 5 December 2021 and 2 February 2022.

The power utility credited its Generation Operational Recovery Plan, which commenced in March 2023, for its generation fleet’s improved performance and reliability.

The plan included accelerating planned maintenance, increased preventative maintenance, major plant refurbishments, and life extension projects.

“The results are increasingly now being seen in the reduction of Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (UCLF) or unplanned maintenance,” Eskom said.

This has resulted in a big improvement in Eskom’s energy available factor (EAF), which helped it to stop load shedding for two months.

However, head of energy at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), Professor Sampson Mamphweli, said load shedding is not a thing of the past.

He warned that power cuts would return as winter progresses and electricity demand ramps up, putting Eskom’s generation fleet under pressure.

He highlighted that Eskom benefitted from improved performance, more solar PV installations, and a warmer-than-expected winter.

The warm winter resulted in lower electricity demand. This is set to change as it gets colder in June and July.

The colder weather will put pressure on Eskom’s grid. This, in turn, is likely to result in the return of load shedding.

“We are looking at stage two load shedding at least if the situation deteriorates and demand rises as winter gets colder,” Mamphweli said.

“We might see days where we do not have load shedding, but there could be days where, at worst, it would be stage five load shedding.”

Eskom CEO Dan Marokane

Mamphweli’s views align with Professor Hartmut Winkler’s from the University of Johannesburg, who said load shedding will return despite lower demand.

Winkler explained that the load shedding reprieve over the last few weeks is due to South Africans using less power.

Electricity demand is 6% less in 2024 than in 2023. This is partly because many businesses and households have installed rooftop solar.

During winter, the electricity demand in South Africa is around 6,000 MW higher than during summer.

During its Winter 2024 Outlook presentation, Eskom said South Africans may see load shedding this winter, but it will likely be limited to stage 2.

Eskom CEO Dan Marokane said their likely risk scenario indicates load shedding will remain at stage 2 and below.

Marokane said their likely scenario, which assumes an average of 15,500MW of breakdowns, indicates that load shedding will be limited to stage 2.

Should the worst-case scenario be realised, where breakdowns hit 17,000MW, load shedding could hit stage 5.

Winkler said this is an optimistic view, adding that he expects South Africa to oscillate between stage 1 and 3 during winter.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa also warned that load shedding was not a thing of the past and that Eskom will experience setbacks in the future.

“We are still working on the reliability of Eskom’s generating units, and that’s why you can’t speak with great confidence that load shedding is behind us,” he said.

Read: Massive turn for load shedding in South Africa – but with a catch

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