South Africans should prepare for the worst regarding load-shedding. Despite claims from government officials, Eskom has not turned the corner, and the end of power cuts is not in reach.

Eskom Load Sheeding

Source : Daily Investor 19 March 2024

This is feedback from the general manager at Energy Partners Power, Charl du Plessis, who said the data does not back up the government’s version of events.

Politicians have regularly blamed load-shedding on increased maintenance over the past few years, saying that it is “short-term pain for longer-term gain”.

Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa famously said South Africans should see the current stage 6 load-shedding in a positive light because of this.

“The load-shedding that we are going through now is occasioned by what Eskom has to do to reposition the generation of our fleet,” Ramaphosa said.

“They are maintaining our fleet. They are making sure that incidents of load-shedding that have been given rise to in the past because of unplanned load-shedding events like breakdowns are put behind us.”

He added that the more intense load-shedding would not last. “This, as much as it is stage 6, is of a short-term nature,” Ramaphosa said.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile echoed Ramaphosa’s sentiment late last year.

He told the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association late last year that intensive maintenance was being done at power stations to relieve the ongoing power cuts in the long term.

“We are allowing Minister Ramokgopa to do a lot of maintenance. So, if you see a bit of a spike at the moment, they are doing intensive maintenance,” he said.

“They have taken a lot of them for maintenance. When they return online, you will see reduced load shedding.”

Lately, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has gone so far as to say that there will be no need for his position by the end of the year as load-shedding will be a thing of the past.

“There will not be a need for this ministry by the end of the year,” he said. “I will be the happiest person within three months. More and more, you will wake up to a hot bath. Much later, a cooked meal at home.”
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa
The sobering truth

According to the electricity minister, since the reinstatement of unit 3 of the Kusile coal-fired plant, the country has begun to ‘turn the corner’ in reducing load-shedding.

While this has provided some relief from load-shedding and will go a long way in curbing the escalation, the fleet’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF) remains very low, said Du Plessis.

Eskom’s EAF has hovered around the 50% mark, which effectively means that half of Eskom’s generation fleet remains out of service.

Furthermore, the relative gains made towards improving EAF remain well below Eskom’s set target of above 60%.

Du Plessis said these top-level figures alone show that despite Eskom’s claims that the worst is indeed over, the numbers are simply not adding up.

Thus, “it may indeed be time to expect the best but prepare for the worst,” said Du Plessis.

These comments from Du Plessis echo those of energy expert Professor Hartmut Winkler, who said South Africans should brace for stage 6 load-shedding in winter as there is no quick fix to the electricity crisis.

Winkler explained that there are multiple ways to end load-shedding, but no quick solutions exist, so any promises for a swift end to load-shedding are misleading.

“The opposition parties are, of course, saying that if they were in government or if they were given a chance, things would be vastly different.”

“I don’t think it matters much. If one looks at the parties’ election manifestos, I do not think any party has a solution for fixing load-shedding immediately,” he said.

“The ones that claim they do, I do not think know what they are talking about.”

He estimated that the current electricity crisis cannot be solved within the next five years. Until new generation capacity is implemented, load-shedding is unlikely to improve.

“Just like an old car, once things get to that stage, you are just going to have those very frequent breakdowns,” he said.

He was optimistic about using renewable energy more to combat the energy crisis but cautioned that the government needs to agree on a transition strategy.

“At the moment, we don’t have a clear plan of where to go,” he said.

“Especially going into winter, it will mean that we will see stage 6 load-shedding several times. I am convinced of that. We have already seen earlier this year how quickly load-shedding can come back.”

Source : Daily Investor 19 March 2024