South Africa will continue to experience load-shedding for another five years as Eskom’s challenges will not go away in a matter of months.
Professor Hartmut Winkler told SABC that, while Eskom has performed better than expected during winter, the country is not out of the woods yet, as the problems are structural and cannot be fixed quickly.
Winkler said the utility seems to have more control over breakdowns at various Eskom power stations, and the outlook is much better than it was three months ago.
However, the reduction in load-shedding has been driven by factors outside Eskom’s control, such as the tremendous speed at which the private sector has installed rooftop solar and a warmer-than-usual winter.
There are no quick fixes to the electricity crisis the country is facing. “Things could be worse, but we are not out of the woods yet,” Winkler said.
“I think we are still going to have power problems for at least five years.”
Equipment will continue to break down, and the fleet’s performance will continue to be volatile for the foreseeable future.
“The public should not be surprised when it is least expected that maybe the country goes to stage 8 load-shedding due to multiple breakdowns.”
It is wishful thinking to say load-shedding will come to an end in the short term since there are no quick fixes to the structural problems at Eskom, he said.
“It does not matter who you put on the board, who you put in the management team or how many people you employ – Eskom’s turnaround will not take days or months, but years.”
The utility is also struggling to expand the capacity of its transmission grid which is limiting the amount of new generation capacity that can come online from the private sector.
Winkler’s comments come on the back of other energy experts, such as former Eskom manager Matthew Cruise, who also warned that load-shedding will be around for many years to come.
Cruise, who now serves as head of business intelligence and public relations at Hohm Energy, said load-shedding intensity could double over the next five years.
He pointed to a study from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research about constraints on the transmission grid.
These constraints prevent many renewable energy projects from feeding into the grid because of capacity constraints in the northern part of the country.
Scatec Sub-Saharan Africa GM Jan Fourie said Eskom’s grid is becoming the bottleneck, especially in areas with wind and solar resources.
South Africa’s grid is designed to carry electricity from large, central power stations in the country’s northeast to other parts.
Renewable energy generation is decentralised, with generation facilities located almost anywhere in the country.
Areas with rich renewable resources, such as the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape, do not have the grid capacity to distribute electricity to the rest of the country.
The grid in these areas can only carry limited load, which is insufficient for large-scale solar and wind projects.
Because of Eskom’s grid capacity constraints, especially regarding renewable energy, Cruise believes load-shedding will be with South Africa for the next ten years.
Cruise predicts increased load-shedding for the next five years, peaking in 2028 with average stage 7 power cuts.