Professor Hartmut Winkler from the University of Johannesburg has warned that South Africans should prepare for another five years of load-shedding.
Winkler’s prediction flies in the face of mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe’s claim that the energy crisis could be solved within six to twelve months.
Speaking to ENCA, Winkler said the country has a shortfall of 6,000MW of electricity, equating to six load-shedding stages.
“To come up with 6,000MW of electricity to stop load-shedding is going to be difficult,” he said.
He added that it is unclear what challenges Eskom’s generation fleet will face in future. “We could not predict that Kusile would have the disastrous loss of three units,” he said.
“There is no margin of error, and we have to get used to a situation that load-shedding will be part of our lives for the next five years,” Winkler said.
“The best we can hope for is that at the same time next year, we are in the same position as we are now.”
Over the last few years, Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) has been getting worse. Higher stages of load-shedding followed.
“I would feel more comfortable if the electricity minister would admit to the situation and say that he would stabilize the generation decline,” he said.
South Africans should, therefore, not expect a significant improvement for the next eighteen months. After that, the situation may slowly start to improve.
Winkler’s prediction aligns with energy expert Chris Yelland’s description of what it will take to improve Eskom’s energy availability factor.
Yelland explained that the energy availability factor is on a declining downward trend, and it has been so for the past five years.
The EAF is based on the average performance of 90 generators in Eskom’s electricity generation fleet. “You cannot maintain or fix them simultaneously,” he said.
What this means, mathematically, is that the EAF is a continuum. There cannot be a discontinuity – also known as a step change – in the EAF trend.
“To increase Eskom’s EAF, there first has to be a slowdown. It then has to bottom out, stabilise, and start to rise. This process will take several years,” he said.
“It is mathematically impossible for this to happen in the 2023/2024 or 2024/2025 financial years,” Yelland said.
“Talk of a 70% or 75% energy availability factor is misleading the public, and it is not achievable by Eskom.”