Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, has projected load shedding for each week in the upcoming year, assuming a worst-case scenario of outages (planned and unplanned) exceeding 17,000 MW. In this article, we’ll examine the reasons behind the concerning forecast and possible solutions to minimize load shedding in the long term.
The Red Alert Table
Eskom’s latest forecast is based on a table featuring various colors, representing the adequacy of generation (or supply) to meet demand. Red is a worst-case scenario, with shortages of over 2,100 MW. Yellow signifies less than 1,000 MW of unavailable supply, and orange implies a shortfall of 1,100 MW to 2,000 MW.
Unfortunately, the table is predominantly red, and Eskom expects outages to surpass 17,000 MW.
Contradictions and Assumptions
These forecasts contradict some politicians’ claims of improved energy generation, including Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana. However, it’s important to note that the forecasts don’t specify when load shedding will occur or its stages. The predictions are based on assumptions, meaning actual outages could be higher or lower than expected.
Blackout Risks and Bringing Balance
According to energy analyst Chris Yelland, implementing load shedding indicates that demand and supply are being balanced, minimizing the risk of blackouts. However, to reduce load shedding in the long term, supply must be increased. This can be done in two ways:
- Fixing existing broken generating units, which is a challenging task due to multiple factors, such as old and damaged equipment, lack of spares, and ongoing repairs.
- Building new power plants and ensuring their proper performance, unlike underperforming plants like Medupi and Kusile.
Factors Contributing to Load Shedding
Yelland stated that technical reasons, corruption, maladministration, and sabotage contribute to the increased load shedding South Africa experiences. Eskom’s red forecast is compared to an unserviced fleet of cars running a taxi service.
Solutions to Reduce Load Shedding
Reducing the risk of load shedding necessitates several changes:
- Streamlining procurement processes for spares to fix Eskom’s fleet.
- Strengthening the grid to support new renewable energy projects.
- Implementing short-term solutions like leveraging existing grid capacity, connecting renewables at decommissioned coal sites, and increasing rooftop solar generation.
The Importance of Grid Strengthening
Strengthening the grid is crucial for addressing load shedding, as new generation capacity requires power lines and substations. Grid constraints are present in various parts of South Africa, and investment has been diverted from the grid toward underperforming plants like Medupi and Kusile.
The Just Energy Transition Partnership and other sources of climate finance will play a key role in raising the necessary R235 billion to R372 billion for new transmission infrastructure over the next 10-12 years.