Energy analyst Professor Hartmut Winkler from the University of Johannesburg has warned South Africans to brace themselves for another five years of load-shedding. This is in contrast to Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s assurances that the energy crisis could be solved in six to twelve months. According to Winkler, South Africa is still experiencing a shortfall of 6,000 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to six load-shedding stages. The energy crisis stems from Eskom’s failing infrastructure, which is compounded by several crises facing the country’s power grid. Here is what we know:
- Eskom’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF) is getting worse, with higher stages of load-shedding occurring over recent years.
- The power utility has reported repeated breakdowns in its infrastructure resulting from a lack of maintenance and investment.
- Eskom has had difficulty generating enough electricity to meet consumer demand, leading to frequent blackouts and rolling power cuts.
- The government’s plan to fix the crisis, which includes new power sources and reducing demand, has not yet yielded significant results.
- The prediction of five more years of load-shedding is grounded in Eskom’s current generator fleet; there is no current plan to add any major new electrical power plants.
- Eskom has been in crisis mode recently, with coal supplies and proposed plants running at much lower capacity than anticipated.
- To improve the EAF, there must be a slowdown, followed by stabilisation, and years of slow progress, with discontinuous jumps being impossibly hard to achieve.
Energy expert Chris Yelland agrees that the current EAF trend would take years to change, with the situation only starting to improve slowly after about eighteen months. He noted that a 70 percent or 75 percent EAF, as indicated in some reports, was misleading and unattainable.
With no clear end in sight to the ongoing energy crisis, South Africans must prepare for further load-shedding. The problem requires a long-term solution, which means an immediate investment in new power generation infrastructure or completely overhauling Eskom’s current fleet. However, with no clear plan to resolve the situation, the country’s power infrastructure is likely to remain a source of frustration,