From the beginning of January this year until the end of April, South Africa has experienced at least 25 days of load shedding.
This was four days fewer compared to the same period last year, according to Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer.
“From 1 January 2021 up until the end of April 2021, we had 29 days of load shedding. Twenty-seven days were at stage 2 and two days were at stage 3.
“In the same period this year – from 1 January 2022 to 30 April 2022 – there’s been 25 days of load shedding. Two days were at stage 1, 17 days were at stage 2, two days were at stage 3 and four days were at stage 4,” Oberholzer said.
He was speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday morning after Eskom implemented stage 2 load shedding from 5pm on Tuesday until Monday at 5am.
The power utility said the rolling power cuts were due to a severe shortage in generation capacity, caused by breakdowns at several of its power stations.
Expect more days of load shedding
Oberholzer warned South Africans should expect more days of load shedding this winter period due to Eskom’s “unreliable and unpredictable” generation capacity.
He said they would try their best to match the demand for electricity in winter while maintaining their flagging power plants.
“It makes it extremely difficult because we have an unreliable and unpredictable system. We will try our utmost to make sure that we balance the capacity and the demand of the country.
“However, it does not take away the fact that we have a relatively high risk of load shedding during the winter period,” Oberholzer said.
Oberholzer said the recent drop in temperatures ahead of the winter period posed a major challenge to Eskom when it came to their maintenance programme.
He said during winter they would ramp down their planned maintenance by around 1 000MW, adding that they had already reduced around 4 000MW to meet the current demand for electricity in the country.
And despite the implementation of stage 2 load shedding on Tuesday, Oberholzer said Eskom was extensively using its emergency reserves to meet demand during the morning and evening peak periods.
He said as much as Eskom would like to lift the rolling blackouts earlier than Monday, they could not give any guarantees at this stage.
“Unfortunately, we still see at this point in time we will continue with load shedding up until Monday at 5 am. I don’t believe that we need to make a decision hastily.
“We need to make sure that when we make a decision [on lifting load shedding] we can stick to that decision. So, this is unfortunately where we find ourselves.”
Units returning to service
Oberholzer said they were only expecting three relatively small units to return to service on Wednesday.
“Units that need to return up until Monday is quite a number of units. During the same time, we need to make sure that our emergency reserves are not depleted and are actually replenished so that when we are ready by Monday to lift load shedding, then we are ready,” he said.
4 500MW at risk
Meanwhile, Eskom’s general manager for generation, Rhulani Mathebula, warned that over 4 000MW of capacity was still at risk due to breakdowns.
The power utility currently had over 4 000MW on planned maintenance, while another 4 658MW of capacity was unavailable due to breakdowns.
“We still have got around 4 500MW that is at risk. These are units that we have kept on the load that are leaping with various effects.
“They require an opportunity for us to take them down and fix them, but it remains a challenge given the fact that there are other machines that have already gone off,” Mathebula said.
Eskom also confirm that the eThekwini metro in KwaZulu-Natal was still exempt from the current bout of load shedding. This was due to damage to infrastructure caused by floods three weeks ago.