Government officials’ repeated promises of load-shedding being reduced or coming to a complete end in 2023 are far-fetched, with load-shedding likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
This is the view of experts and Eskom itself, which expects load-shedding to be a regular occurrence in South Africa for years to come.
African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Fikile Mbalula recently said, “I can assure you that load-shedding will be reversed and dealt with decisively.”
He continued, “I know from where I am sitting and from the work that is being done by the government that before the end of the year, load-shedding should be something of the past.”
Mbalula’s comments came the same day that acting Eskom CEO Calib Cassim warned South Africans to prepare for a harsh and cold winter, with stage 8 being highly likely.
These comments followed Mbalula’s remarks in January, where he said the ANC is “changing gear” and taking decisive action to end load-shedding.
The aim for the ANC is “getting this done and dusted by the end of the year”, according to Mbalula.
Fellow ANC member and electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said in April that load-shedding could be reduced to stage 3 by September and eliminated by the end of the year.
However, Ramokgopa made a U-turn in May when he said power cuts would be “drastically reduced” by the year’s end but not eliminated.
“We’re going to see significantly reduced stages of load-shedding – I’m more than confident about that.”
The 4,000MW that are expected to be added to the grid by the end of 2023 will not be sufficient to end load-shedding completely as the current supply-demand imbalance is roughly 6,000MW.
Thus, it is “not technically possible to end load-shedding by the end of the year”, but the intensity of power cuts will be significantly reduced.
Learn to live with load-shedding
The claims and promises of a quick end to load-shedding are unlikely to come to fruition.
Eskom has forecast for load-shedding to continue until 2027, with the situation likely to worsen as the performance of its coal fleet continues to deteriorate.
This forecast was part of the utility’s medium-term adequacy report, which aims to assess electricity supply shortfalls over the next five years.
Eskom anticipated varying levels of load-shedding throughout the next five years, warning that the “situation will worsen as the plant performance continues to trend downwards”.
Furthermore, the utility has been preparing for load-shedding up to stage 16, with the NRS Association of South Africa developing new “NRS 048 part 9” standards to accommodate load-shedding beyond stage 8.
Eskom said the new national standards document would provide load-shedding schedules up to Stage 16.
This is echoed by energy expert Clyde Mallinson who has previously urged caution about making pronouncements about a swift end to load-shedding.
“It would be great if it were possible”, but it is highly unlikely that load-shedding can be solved within the next two years.
Load-shedding could be dramatically reduced but only in about 18-24 months if the performance of Eskom’s coal fleet significantly improved and large-scale renewable projects came online.
South Africa can only look to cope with load-shedding or reduce it in the short term, not eliminate it.
“We are passed the point where we can easily just reduce and get rid of load-shedding”, Mallinson said. “We have to learn to live with it.”