Energy analyst Chris Yelland said promises by ministers that load-shedding could be ended within 6 to 18 months were never realistic.
Over the last few months, the energy minister, finance minister, and minister of electricity said load-shedding could be ended soon.
- In January 2023, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told eNCA that South Africa’s energy crisis could be solved within 6 to 12 months.
- Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said in January that the country planned to improve energy provisioning and end load-shedding within 12 to 18 months.
- On 22 January 2023, Eskom chair Mpho Makwana said it would take two years “to improve the energy availability factor (EAF) from the current 58% to 70%”.
- Last week, Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa reportedly said load-shedding could be reduced to stage 3 by September and eliminated by the end of the year.
“We have heard a wide range of conflicting messaging about load-shedding coming from the government,” Yelland said.
“These conflicting statements don’t inspire a lot of confidence because there is not much substance behind the productions.”
He said when ministers make predictions about ending load-shedding, there should be credible plans behind them.
“To suggest that load-shedding could be eliminated by the end of the year has never been credible,” Yelland said.
Eskom’s forecast shows the country faces severe load-shedding nearly every week for the rest of the year.
The EAF for the first fifteen weeks of the year shows an alarming trend, as it is significantly lower than in the same period last year.
“Things are much worse in 2023, and I don’t see an end to the load-shedding problems this year. We are in for a very hard year,” Yelland said.
Eskom energy availability factor
When the new Eskom board was appointed in October 2022, its mandate was to increase Eskom’s EAF to 75%.
The EAF shows the percentage of time the power station was available for use when it was needed. It is a core measure of performance.
There is a strong focus on improving Eskom’s EAF because it is directly linked to load-shedding.
If the EAF can be improved to around 70%, load-shedding will be a thing of the past, and South Africa will have electricity security.
However, claims of fixing the energy crisis within 6 to 12 months and increasing the EAF to 75% are misguided.
Yelland explained that the EAF is on a declining downward trend and 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.”