South Africa is facing a potential crisis when it comes to electricity supply. According to energy expert Clyde Mallison, the country could see up to stage 9 load shedding if the weather turns into a cold snap. Eskom, the country’s national power supplier, is already struggling to keep the lights on, and with winter approaching, the situation is likely to get worse. Here’s what you need to know:
What is load shedding?
Load shedding is the process of switching off electricity supply to certain areas during high-demand periods. This is done to avoid a total blackout, which would be more damaging to the electrical grid and take longer to fix. Load shedding is measured in stages, with each stage indicating how much electricity is being saved. Stage 1 load shedding means 1,000MW saved, stage 2 means 2,000MW saved, and so on, up to stage 8.
What’s the current situation with Eskom?
Eskom is currently implementing stage 6 load shedding, which means that 6,000MW of electricity is being saved. This is the highest stage of load shedding in the country’s history. Eskom is struggling to keep the power on due to breakdowns at its power stations, delays in returning units to service, and others being taken offline for scheduled repairs. According to Eskom, it only has 24,700MW of generating capacity available versus demand of 31,400, necessitating the stage 6 load shedding.
What could happen in the coming months?
According to data plotted by energy expert Clyde Mallison, South Africa’s winter load shedding could go as high as stage 9 if the weather turns into a cold snap. This means that 9,000MW of electricity would be saved. Eskom’s breakdowns are already beyond its planned risk level of 17,200MW offline, which spells bad news for the coming months. Eskom’s likely risk scenario for winter is showing above two stages of load shedding throughout.
What is the government doing to address the situation?
Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has warned that it will be an extremely difficult time. The government is not shying away from spending more money to deal with Eskom’s electricity crisis, including making sacrifices to fund the utility’s diesel spend. Ramokgopa said that if South African borrowing costs had to rise to fund diesel purchases, then that was a necessary trade-off given the impact outages were having on unemployment and growth prospects. However, even an unrestrained diesel budget comes with its hurdles. Eskom previously noted that there are physical limitations to how much diesel it can actually use.
South Africa is facing a difficult time when it comes to electricity supply. With winter approaching, Eskom and the government need to work together to prevent a total blackout. Load shedding may be a short-term solution, but it is not a sustainable one. Long-term solutions need to be found in order to avoid such situations in the future.