Expect near-permanent load shedding for the next 2 years: Eskom

 ·22 Jan 2023

Eskom chairperson Mpho Makwena says that the power utility aims to deliver some degree of predictability for South Africa while the company executes its turnaround plan.

This will require “some level of” permanent load shedding at stage 2 or stage 3 for at least two years so that critical maintenance can be done on power stations.

Addressing the media on Sunday (22 January), Makwena said that the recovery of the coal fleet will not be accomplished in the near term and that it will take at least two years to reach an energy availability factor (EAF) of 70%.

This is coming off a low base of 58% EAF at present.

As part of the recovery plan, Eskom will be addressing systemic issues, especially those relating to leadership and the entire organisational culture of the power utility, he said.

“The recovery of generation performance will not happen within a short space of time, the execution of the recovery plan requires that power stations are given space and headroom to execute the recovery plan this requires either adding additional capacity to create space to do proper maintenance without firefighting , or create some predictability by implementing a permanent stage 2 or 3 for the next two years in order to give sufficient space for maintenance while giving the country a level of predictability or consistency to plan the livelihoods better. Shuttling from one stage to another within a short space of time is not good for the business community.”

Makwena called on all South Africans to assist with the power crisis by using power sparingly. Over time, various strategies to help mitigate the crisis will be looked at, including rooftop solar rollout and using mini power stations.

Despite Makwena’s comments, Eskom’s spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha clarified that the power utility hasn’t implemented load shedding on a permanent basis as this would not guarantee that load shedding would remain at lower levels.

Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, who is planning to make his exit at the end of March 2023, said that the EAF is getting the most focus in the coming period. Planned maintenance will be scaled down heading into the winter months, which should help control some of the supply issues.

However, he said that supply would remain constrained for the rest of the year.

More positively, 9,200MW of embedded projects in the pipeline. The first of these expected to be integrated into the grid by the end of the year, which will have a material impact on the grid. The rollout of rooftop solar and other strategies are expected to be detailed in the coming weeks and months.

De Ruyter said that the risk of stage 8 load shedding is receding – however, the threat always remains. He assured that the System Operator is in full control of the system and that everything possible is being done to keep South Africa away from a total blackout and also higher stages of load shedding.

Makwena’s and De Ruyter’s statements comes after weeks of high-stage load shedding, where South Africans have experienced rolling blackouts as high as stage 6 every day this year so far.

The crisis led to president Cyril Ramaphosa calling off his planned trip to Davos to hold emergency meetings with stakeholders.

Unfortunately, no short-term or quick-fix solutions could be found at these meetings, with Eskom having to rely on the long-term plans announced by the president in 2022.

Read: Ramaphosa’s plan for load shedding after a week of emergency meetings

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