Experts warn about higher stages of load-shedding

South Africa is heading towards the end of winter when demand for electricity peaks, putting immense pressure on Eskom’s ageing coal-powered fleet. Experts are now warning that higher stages of load-shedding are on the horizon.

Energy analyst Clyde Mallinson spoke to Newzroom Afrika following an update on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan from Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. 

Mallinson said what the minister described as a ‘perfect storm’, which pushed load-shedding to stage 6 last week, was “a normal cold front we get every winter, and the coal fleet could not cope with the increased demand.”

Eskom’s coal fleet has been unreliable, and it seems as though its good performance during winter so far is coming to an end. 

Electricity demand tends to peak towards the end of July and the beginning of August as the country experiences cold fronts. 

Chair of the National Rationalised Specifications (NRS) Association of South Africa Vally Padaychee previously said that “we are not out of the woods yet”, despite improved generation performance resulting in lower stages of load-shedding. 

“As professionals, we should not give the country a false sense of hope”, he said. 

The significant test for Eskom will come at the end of July and early August, as demand increases throughout winter and peaks at the beginning of August. 

Eskom’s generation fleet will come under pressure during this period. “Pragmatically, we are not out of the woods yet. We must wait and see,” Padaychee said.

According to Padayachee, load-shedding will take two years to solve, with demand management being the best short-term solution.

Mallinson warned, “If the coal fleet has a bit of a wobble when demand is high, then yes, we may see our first incidents of stage 7.” 

However, decreased economic activity, increased usage of alternative power sources by the private sector, and improved Energy Availability Factor (EAF) may absorb the additional demand. 

Coal tends to perform better in winter as it is easier to cool the steam from the turbines. Eskom’s two newest coal power stations, Kusile and Medupi, are air-cooled and thus much more efficient in winter.


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