Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said South Africa would “see significantly reduced load-shedding” before the end of the year and will soon “be saying that load-shedding is behind us”.
Ramokgopa made these comments in an interview on eNCA, where he gave an update on the implementation of the government’s Energy Action Plan (EAP).
The minister is encouraged by the progress in increasing the Energy Availability Factor (EAF) of Eskom’s generation fleet and adding capacity to the grid through private investment.
Ramokgopa claims that in the last month, there has been a 7% improvement in the EAF of the fleet, with a 1% equalling roughly 477MW of output.
This has resulted in an additional output of over 3,000MW, equating to four load-shedding stages.
However, load-shedding has not been reduced because of increased winter demand “eating up the increased supply”.
Last Friday, Eskom’s generation fleet breached the 60% EAF mark, which shows that the utility is “ahead of the curve” with regard to its performance targets.
The key focus for Ramokgopa now is stabilising the supply of electricity and ensuring that the increased EAF is maintained.
“I think it is a significant movement. A green shoot,” Ramokgopa said, “The fact that for a period during the week in winter, you have had instances of no load-shedding is significant”.
This is earlier than he expected, with load-shedding potentially being drastically reduced in the near future.
Furthermore, “the picture will change significantly when we return the three units at Kusile”. These three units are capable of producing 2,400MW, which equates to three stages of load-shedding.
The units at Kusile are on track to come back on stream by the beginning of December. Once they return, “we are closer to saying that load-shedding is behind us”.
These latest statements from Ramokgopa are at odds with his comments at the beginning of May, which said that it is “not technically possible to end load-shedding by the end of the year”.
The minister has done multiple U-turns regarding when load-shedding will be brought to an end.
He 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 expected to be added to the grid by the end of 2023 will not be sufficient to end load-shedding completely as the 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.
Energy experts like Clyde Mallinson have previously urged caution about pronouncing 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.
“We are past the point where we can easily just reduce and get rid of load-shedding, ” Mallinson said. “We have to learn to live with it.”