Electricity Minister Warns About Stage 10 Load-Shedding Crisis

South Africa could face a stage 10 load-shedding crisis this winter if Eskom’s power generation capacity doesn’t improve, warns Electricity Minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa. In a recent briefing, the minister explained that Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) averages at 53%, resulting in a significant gap between generation capacity and demand, with the power utility expecting a shortfall of 8,000MW to 10,000MW.

The minister revealed that ESKOM’s peak summer demand can average around 32,000 MW, while Eskom experts calculated a minimum additional generation of around 6,000MW in the summer months to bridge the gap between demand and supply. As we approach winter, the peak demand of 37,000MW on average will increase demand and stretch generation capacity, resulting in the current shortfall challenges multiplied by a factor of four. The maximum supply guaranteed by Eskom is 27,000MW, which means the country is projected to have a shortfall of 8,000MW to 10,000MW.

While the minister didn’t explicitly disclose any load shedding stages, industry experts define one stage of load-shedding as removing up to 1,000MW of demand from the grid, which could result in stage 8 to 10 load shedding in South Africa. The System Operator is responsible for monitoring the national grid and ensuring its stability, including instituting load-shedding measures when demand exceeds supply.

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Ramokgopa suggested that there are three options to address the crisis, with the first being increasing generation capacity by ramping up Eskom’s power stations unit-by-unit to ensure critical generation capacity is achieved. The second option involves implementing load-shedding measures to reduce electricity demand, while the third is to do both.

He added that despite efforts to reduce power demand through efficient use, the daily needs of households and businesses must not be undermined. Efficiencies must be found to reduce demand, rather than asking people to do without to conserve energy.

Industry analysts are raising alarm bells, predicting a higher stage of possible load-shedding this winter. Energy expert at Hohm Energy, Matthew Cruise, said there is a high risk of stage 8 load-shedding, and possibly even higher stages, being imposed from July 2023. However, his demand projection figures are lower than Eskom and the national energy regulator, NERSA’s figures.

Cruise predicted that Eskom could face a shortfall of up to 4,000MW due to the increase in power demand during winter, which equates to four stages of load-shedding. However, Ramokgopa’s estimates are much higher, indicating that there will be an 8,000MW to 10,000MW electricity shortfall during peak winter demand.

In conclusion, South Africans are bracing themselves for more power outages this winter as Eskom grapples with the persisting generation capacity challenges. The government, energy experts, and Eskom are working towards finding sustainable solutions to ensure that the country’s energy supply infrastructure can provide the necessary power capacity. However, the reality of the 10th stage of load-shedding remains a possible outcome, and more interventions are still needed to prevent this from happening.