Eskom has performed better than expected during winter so far. However, South Africans should not be surprised if the country is plunged into stage 8 load-shedding as the utility’s generation fleet remains unreliable.
Professor Hartmut Winkler told SABC that South Africa is not out of the woods yet with regard to potential higher load-shedding stages.
“It might still happen that we will be forced to go to stage 8 load-shedding,” Winkler said, “Things could be worse, but we are not out of the woods yet.”
Eskom appears to have more control over breakdowns at various power stations, with units going offline less often and being returned to service more efficiently.
Winkler said the situation is much better now than three months ago when many experts predicted rolling stage 8 blackouts.
Demand for electricity from Eskom has declined from the levels seen during winter last year as companies and households are finding alternative energy sources.
This eases the burden on the utility and allows it to refill its diesel generators and its pumped water storage.
Data shared by Eskom and Professor Anton Eberhard revealed that South African households and businesses have installed 4.4 GW of rooftop solar PV.
Eberhard posted data from Eskom, which showed that the country’s installed solar rooftop PV increased from 983 MW in March 2023 to 4,412 MW in June 2023.
This 349% increase in solar rooftop PV significantly reduced the residual load Eskom needs to meet during the day.
However, Eskom’s coal generation fleet remains unreliable, and its output is volatile, which raises the possibility of elevated stages of load-shedding being implemented at short notice.
Winkler warned that the public should be prepared for a potential escalation to stage 8 load-shedding when they least anticipate it.