Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
8 Nov 2021
8:27 am

Will load shedding get better? It doesn’t seem likely

Nica Richards

Eskom’s load shedding gets worse each year, with 2021 being the lowest it has ever been.

South Africans currently have to content with Stage 2 load shedding throughout this week, until 5am on Saturday, due to a plethora of issues. Photo for illustration: iStock

This year’s intermittent load shedding, coupled with an ever-present Covid-19 fourth wave, has spelled a rather gloomy festive season. 

South Africans currently have to content with Stage 2 load shedding throughout this week, until 5am on Saturday, due to a plethora of issues, ranging from insufficient generation capacity to low diesel levels. 

Many are undoubtedly questioning whether the situation will ever get better, and what would need to change in order to have reliable electricity supply. 

Energy expert Chris Yelland’s response to this in an interview with Jacaranda FM did not paint a pretty picture. 

According to Yelland, Eskom’s load shedding reputation gets worse each year, with 2021 being the lowest it has ever been. 

ALSO READ: How SA’s addiction to coal is sacrificing the planet to try keep the lights on

He explained that the old Eskom coal-fired power plants are getting older every year, which means they are performing worse. 

But what about Eskom’s new build? 

Medupi and Kusile, meant to boost the country’s electricity generation capacity by thousands of megawatts, have come on stream too slowly, and are performing “like old plants” – which means their energy availability factors are not bringing the average up, Yelland said. 

“In fact, the new plant is performing as bad if not worse than some of the old plants.”

ALSO READ: Explosion put Medupi’s unit 4 out of service for at least a year, says Eskom

What about renewables? 

Yelland said the new build from the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), gas-to-power and other procurements part of the Integrated Resource Plan for electricity are coming on board too late. 

“And so this is also meaning that the old plant has to continue operating, being pushed very hard, at a time when it should be retiring those and replacing them with this new plant,” he explained. 

South Africa’s energy transition is years off track, with roughly 86% of the country’s energy still coming from coal, leaving just 14% for other electricity sources. 

An $8.5 billion (R131 billion) pledge from France, Germany, the UK, the US and the European Union was signed at the 26th United Nations climate change conference (COP26) last week, which is aimed at boosting South Africa’s just transition away from coal over the next three to five years. 

ALSO READ: COP26 billions a ‘colonial takeover engineered by the West’ – EFF’s Shivambu

It may, however, be too little, too late, with Yelland criticising public procurements for “not coming on stream as they should.”

The importance of planned maintenance 

Yelland emphasised in his interview that planned maintenance was “sacrosanct throughout [a plant’s] life.”

“You need to do regular maintenance by the book, the way you would maintain a car. The same with the generation fleet.” 

He said there should be a “culture of maintenance” at Eskom, with people operating plants being “the custodians of public assets.” 

“It is their duty to look after those assets as it they were their own assets.”

This, he said, ensures a good plant life.  

Last month, energy expert Ted Blom said South Africa could have load shedding for the next five years, and with Yelland’s synopsis of yearly Eskom degradation, it is not known when the tedious life of unreliable power supply will come to an end.