The NRS Association of South Africa’s Vally Padayachee has warned that the country could go beyond stage 8 load-shedding during winter to avoid a total blackout.
Padayachee is an experienced energy expert and engineer who served as an Eskom generation group executive during the power utility’s golden years.
Padayachee told Newzroom Africa that Eskom is working with an installed electricity generation capacity of 52,000MW.
However, when the 6,000MW of unreliable renewable energy is taken out, only 46,000MW of dispatchable generation capacity is left.
The country is currently experiencing level 6 load-shedding because 25,000MW is unavailable due to breakdowns and planned maintenance.
Eskom, therefore, has only 21,000MW availability dispatchable capacity. With the help of renewable energy and independent power producers, it was increased to 23,771MW.
The available generation capacity is significantly lower than the demand of 30,747MW experienced on Thursday evening.
Eskom, therefore, implemented 7,072MW of load-shedding to ensure demand does not exceed supply and cause a grid collapse.
Padayachee warned that the situation would worsen during winter because of significantly higher demand.
Historical data showed that winter electricity demand peaks between 35,000MW and 37,000MW.
If only 21,000MW of dispatchable generation capacity is available, South Africa will have a shortfall between 10,000MW and 16,000MW.
Without drastic action to increase the available generation capacity or decrease demand, South Africa could face stage 10 or higher load-shedding in winter.
Preparing for load-shedding beyond stage 8
Padayachee said there are no guarantees that South Africa would not go beyond stage 8 load-shedding, which is why they are preparing for this situation.
“Technically and professionally, based on the constrained grid, there are no guarantees that we won’t go beyond stage 6 or stage 8 load-shedding,” he said.
“Despite all the negative effects of load-shedding, it is still the best technical management tool to prevent a total blackout.”
The NRS Association has developed a new load-shedding regulation standard to cope with higher levels of load-shedding.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where we create panic and then get into a blackout situation,” he said.
“We want to assure the South African public that we have done enough work to mitigate going into a blackout situation.”
His assurances come after Eskom’s acting head of generation, Thomas Conradie, said they were revising the code of practice, which can extend its load-shedding schedule to stage 16.
He said it is responsible for the new rotational power cut document to cater to higher load-shedding stages.
The new document would avoid a situation where Eskom will need to “jump around” to reduce the load on the grid beyond stage 8.