Grab your candles and crank up those generators; South Africa’s load shedding woes continue to darken doorsteps. As we’re on the cusp of commemorating the one-year mark of the “permanent” load shedding saga, 2023 has dished out a bitter surprise – the blackout hours this year alone have surpassed the cumulative total of the previous decade.
Dark Hours & Gloomy Milestones
Poring over the latest Power Availability Statistics (PAS), Pieter Jordaan, a keen-eyed independent energy analyst, delivers the bleak news: as of week 33 (ending 18 August 2023), the country grappled with 1,296 blackout hours. Yep, that’s 54 entire days without power.
Offering a stark comparison, from 2014 to 2022, South Africa endured 53 days of blackout hours in total. Simple math, and unfortunately, it spells out that 2023 is shaping up as the darkest year in a decade.
Making Sense of the Shades of Darkness
For the uninitiated, tracking load shedding can be puzzling. Though the country has faced a near-consistent state of load shedding since September 2022, not all load shedding is created equal. Stage 1 and stage 6 load shedding might each span 24 hours, but the latter is drastically more disruptive.
That’s where Jordaan’s insights come into play. His focus is on ‘blackout hours’ – the actual time folks are plunged into darkness. So, even if we’ve weathered 5,000 hours of load shedding this year, about 26% (circa 1,300 hours) have been total blackouts.
A Glimmer Amidst the Gloom?
If you’re hunting for a silver lining, here it is: the projection for total blackout days for the year has slightly receded – from 88 days in early August to 85 days. But don’t pop the champagne just yet.
September Shadows Loom Large
Bidding adieu to winter, South Africa braces for hotter days and, possibly, darker nights. Remember the winter’s surprising pause in blackouts? That was thanks to cold weather ramping up power plant efficiency, wind energy receiving a boost, and industrial giants cutting down their demands.
However, Jordaan’s prognosis for the post-winter months is less than sunny. “South Africans should enjoy the current respite, for the winter season that ends on 1 September will bring renewed demand from large consumers as lower summer electricity tariffs kick in,” Jordaan points out. Add to that the looming diesel delivery challenges, and it’s déjà vu to last September’s power crisis.
Promises vs. Reality
Despite the lofty speeches from politicians championing the power utility’s performance and painting a rosy end-of-year picture, reality paints a different tale. We’re not just far from previous power outputs – we’re lagging in meeting the current demand.