Load shedding in South Africa has been a constant source of frustration for years, and it looks like it’s only going to get worse. Experts say that the electricity minister’s latest proposal will do little to curb the problem and that the country is in for a winter “horror show.” Here is what you need to know:
The Minister’s Proposal
Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the electricity minister, presented a proposal to the ANC executive committee over the weekend. The plan aims to address the country’s load shedding issue over the next six months. It includes using emergency diesel generators, addressing critical problems at the five most problematic power stations, and exempting certain regions from power outages. While it has secured support from the party, the plan has been met with criticism from energy experts who say that it’s nothing new.
Experts Say the Plan is Frustrating and Futile
Hugo Pienaar, the chief economist at the Bureau for Economic Research (BER), spoke to SABC News about the proposed initiatives. He said that the plan to use diesel-run open-cycle gas turbines to supplement generation and cut maintenance when the demand is high, is something the power utility has been doing for years. Pienaar called it frustrating that the government is portraying the plan as fresh, without providing any new solutions. Furthermore, Pienaar added that the plan is futile as there is very little that can be done in the short term to give relief. Load shedding is only likely to improve when private generation and developments at Koeberg and Kusile are completed next year.
Energy expert Tshepo Kgadmina echoed Pienaar’s views, saying that there is no practical plan to address load shedding in the near term. Kgadmina added that, without legislative powers, Ramokgopa’s plan wouldn’t go anywhere, and he is currently a “glorified public relations officer.” Kgadmina warned that South Africa was heading towards a “horror show” this winter.
What Does this Mean for South Africa?
Winter is expected to be challenging, with rolling blackouts predicted to reach record levels as demand skyrockets and supply comes under severe strain. Earlier this month, Ramokgopa said that winter demand is likely to spike up to 37,000MW, while Eskom can only produce around 27,000MW. This would create an energy shortfall of 10,000MW – or equivalent to stage 10 load shedding. However, in recent weeks, Eskom has been unable to reliably hit even 27,000MW, often falling below 25,000MW, extending the potential shortfall even further.
Business leaders, analysts, and economists are raising concerns about the situation. Last week, energy expert Hilton Trollip pointed out that Ramokgopa’s plans are rehashed, and without legislative powers, he is simply a “politically-appointed CEO” at Eskom. Trollip said that the Electricity Regulation Act grants Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe significant powers, indicating that Ramaokgopa lacks the authority to carry out his plans.
The Bottom Line
Load shedding continues to be a significant challenge for South Africa’s electricity grid, and this winter is expected to be a “horror show” as demand skyrockets, and supply comes under severe strain. Experts say that the latest proposals from the electricity minister won’t do much to help the situation, and private generation and developments at Koeberg and Kusile may be the only solution. Without significant interventions on both the demand and supply side, higher stages of load shedding are unavoidable.