South Africans are being warned to brace for increasing stages of load shedding as experts, analysts, and Eskom itself raise alarm bells. The power utility announced on Sunday night that continuous Stage 6 load shedding would be in effect until further notice due to breakdowns at its power stations. Eskom warned that there is a possibility of further changes to the stages of load shedding at short notice, given the high number of breakdowns. The return of all-day Stage 6 load shedding is particularly concerning as it is taking place during a time of lower demand, and the country is still in its summer months.
Analysts and energy experts have warned that the situation is likely to worsen, despite Eskom’s efforts to assure the nation that the supply and demand patterns will change for the better as winter approaches. The Bureau for Economic Research has stated that the electricity situation in South Africa remains dire. The National Energy Crisis Committee (Necom) announced that Eskom currently has ample diesel supplies, which is helping to shield the country from up to two stages of load shedding during peak hours. Without these diesel-powered turbines, South Africa would already be at Stage 8.
Intellidex analyst Peter Attard Montalto had predicted Stage 6 load shedding for February, which has now come to fruition, and warned that Stage 7 load shedding is likely to arrive by July. Other energy experts have warned that the country will reach Stage 8 and beyond by the middle of the year, given the winter demand and Eskom’s failing power availability. Eskom’s former general manager of system operations, Robbie van Heerden, has advised South Africans to prepare for many more years of load shedding, including Stage 8 power cuts this winter.
As South Africa is once again facing Stage 6 load shedding, questions are being raised about the government’s response to the crisis. President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the power crisis a national state of disaster in his State of the Nation Address in early February, allowing the national government to act with urgency. However, no new measures have been announced by government departments, and the president has yet to announce who will be filling the role of the new minister of electricity, whose sole focus will be to end load shedding. The Bureau for Economic Research notes that some progress is being made, as Nersa has given its final approval for the license required by the Eskom transmission entity, which is set to operate independently by the end of March.