Higher load shedding stages will have ‘extremely detrimental effect’ on domestic economy
The power utility have requested consumers to reduce their demand, but their request 'will fall on deaf ears'.
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South Africa is set for even darker and colder times as interim Eskom group chief executive Calib Cassim declares a “difficult winter” with extremely high chances of stage 8 load shedding, with even higher stages up to 16 on standby.
Speaking at a state of the system briefing yesterday, Cassim said Eskom had 3 000MW less capacity than last winter with the loss of units 1 to 3 at Kusile power station, and one unit at Koeberg.
“The focus must be on the performance of the general fleet, but if unplanned outages reach 18 000MW, then the likelihood of stage 8 is extremely high. But we are confident it will not occur, because of the interventions we have put in,” he added.
However, in order to achieve this, Cassim said Eskom needed to keep unplanned load losses below 15 000MW. If losses exceeds 18 000MW, the risk of stage 8 load shedding would be extremely high, he said, also noting load shedding would likely be in effect permanently over winter.
Energy analyst Lungile Mashele said stage 8 was inevitable.
“We’ve already seen glimpses since February where load shedding exceeded what was officially announced. A combination of load shedding and load curtailment.”
She said on the demand side, Eskom management unfortunately found themselves in a position where they had no other alternatives.
“This is why they’re asking consumers to reduce their demand. I’m well aware that for the most part, many of us do not have any more demand to actually reduce and we are actually paying a lot for electricity also.
“So it seems like the request will fall on deaf ears. I think one of the key messages that has been shared not only by Eskom but by Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa is, if everybody could switch off their geysers during the evening peak, it could save up to 4000MW,” Mashele said.
Political economy analyst Daniel Silke said Eskom’s briefing was bleak and realistic in preparing South Africa for the possibility of enhanced stages of load shedding.
“But, ultimately, it was very disappointing, considering the country was looking for a plan of action from the minister of electricity and the broader administration in order to alleviate load shedding.
“Yet certainly in the short-term and in the winter months it looks as though we will see unprecedented stages of load shedding, which will have an extremely detrimental effect on the domestic economy,” said Silke.
During the briefing, Eskom board chair Mpho Makwana said the utility’s intention was to push forward with demand-side management, which should help curb energy demand during winter.
This after explaining that the pressure from winter was exacerbated by shifting weather patterns– with recent wet weather in Joburg showing a dramatic change to typical conditions.
“The power system will be even more constrained and weather forecasters are predicting a harsh winter,” he said.
Makwana said in terms of mitigation, Eskom said it will be cutting planned maintenance to try and conserve megawatts wherever it can. It will also be turning to its open-cycle gas turbines and burning more diesel to try and keep the lights on, but most of the load shedding relief is only expected after winter.
He noted that this will also be the first winter without 960MW from Koeberg Unit 1, which will only be back on the grid by September, as some downed units will also only be back online by November, which should provide some relief.
He expects the overall energy availability factor to be at 65% by the end of the financial year in March 2024.
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