Stage 8 load-shedding warning from minister

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has warned that South Africans should brace for a cold winter that may include stage 8 power cuts.

Speaking to SABC News, Ramokgopa said he could not preclude stage 7 or 8 power cuts this winter.

Eskom generates multiple scenarios based on the estimated supply and historic demand over the next few months.

  • The most optimistic scenario will see the country experiencing stage 4 to 5 load-shedding in winter.
  • The most pessimistic scenario will see the country exceed stage 6, with stages 7 and 8 possible.

The minister said the best-case scenario puts unplanned outages at 16,000MW while the worst-case scenario puts it at 18,000MW.

However, on Sunday, Eskom experienced 19,333MW of unplanned outages, which significantly exceed the worst-case scenario. The minister did not address this issue.

To prevent higher stages of load-shedding, Ramokgopa wants Eskom to burn more diesel than initially planned.

Eskom’s open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) power stations, powered by diesel, are used during peak periods and emergency situations to supply electricity to the grid.

However, there is a challenge. Diesel is expensive, and Eskom will far exceed its budgeted R8 billion to run these OCGTs extensively in winter.

The Treasury has built in R22 billion of fadditional support for Eskom to buy diesel, which will take the budget to R30 billion.

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa
Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

However, not everyone is convinced that it will be enough to prevent South Africa from experiencing higher levels of load-shedding.

Energy expert Clyde Mallinson said Eskom faces an 11,000MW electricity shortfall during winter, resulting in 2,000MW load-curtailment and stage 9 load-shedding.

Mallinson, a director at Virtual Energy and Power and Clean Energy Projects, first made this prediction during a load-shedding forecast presentation.

Mallinson told eNCA his load-shedding forecast using historical energy availability factor (EAF) and demand data shows a shortfall of up to 11,000MW during winter.

To make up for this gap between demand and supply, Eskom can get around 2,000MW from energy-intensive users through load-curtailment.

These energy-intensive users, like mines and smelters, cannot switch their electricity use on and off because it will crush their businesses.

This is why load-curtailment is used where these businesses reduce their electricity use rather than being switched off for the duration of load-shedding.

The other 9,000MW of the 11,000MW shortfall is gained through stage 9 load-shedding, resulting in households and normal businesses sitting without electricity for more than half the day.

“I hope if we do touch stage 9, it will be for very brief periods, like between 17:00 and 20:00 at night,” Mallinson said.

Professor Mark Swilling, the co-director of the Centre for Sustainability Transitions at Stellenbosch University, echoes Mallinson’s prediction.

He said there is no improvement in Eskom’s performance, and as winter sets in, the situation will worsen.

Swilling said South Africans should brace for higher load-shedding stages in winter as electricity demand increases.


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