Energy experts are raising concern about Eskom’s coal fleet Energy Availability Factor (EAF) hovering at around 50%. This means that only half of the available power is being generated by the giant utility firm, and this could lead to higher stages of load shedding this winter.
Lungile Mashele, an energy economist, has explained that the EAF has been oscillating at 50% for some time now. Thus, a higher EAF means lower stages of load shedding. The 2019 Integrated Resource Plan assumed EAF would be above 70%, which informed the investment decisions at the time. If the current EAF continues, we can expect to experience the severe load shedding we’ve been experiencing and probably even more in winter.
Energy expert Professor Wikus van Niekerk also warned that when availability is 50%, only half of the possible power available can be generated. This means that if we have 30GW in the country, then only half, which is 15GW, can be generated. With availability below 60%, we will have load shedding. And if it drops below 50%, we’ll experience level 6 or higher load shedding which could get even worse in winter.
David Lipschitz, an energy resilience expert and author of the book The Last Blackout, noted that due to this development, we should expect load shedding to be somewhere between Stage 4 and Stage 10 this winter.
Eskom has confirmed that they are currently experiencing delays in returning a unit to service at Arnot, Camden, Duvha, Kendal, Kriel, Lethabo, Matimba, Matla, and Tutuka power stations, contributing to the current capacity constraints. The team is working around the clock to ensure that generating units are returned to service as soon as possible.
This concern should be taken very seriously by all South Africans, as the implications of load shedding on businesses, individuals and the economy as a whole are vast. It is important for every citizen to take extra care and plan for these changes to avoid unnecessary disruptions to daily life. It is essential that the government, Eskom, and energy experts continue to work together in developing a plan to avoid the disastrous effects of load shedding in the long term.