Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa and other politicians regularly tell South Africans that Eskom is doing well in fighting load-shedding, but official data tells a different story.
President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Ramokgopa as Electricity Minister in March 2023 to reduce the intensity of load-shedding and ultimately end it completely.
In May, Ramaphosa promised that the end of load-shedding “should be in sight soon”, with its severity reducing in the short term.
In August, he doubled down on his promise, saying the government is doing great work to fix Eskom and the energy crisis and that load-shedding will end by 2024.
African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Fikile Mbalula also said, “Before the end of the year, load-shedding should be something of the past”.
These comments came amidst better-than-predicted load-shedding during winter, with Eskom not reaching widely expected stage 8 power cuts.
Ramokgopa also said Eskom could maintain lower stages of load-shedding due to the improvement of the energy availability factor (EAF).
In June, he said Eskom was much closer to achieving its target of 70% EAF and that it has been consistent on an average of 60% for the past 14 days.
“We are getting much closer to the target of 70% EAF that we had promised,” Ramokgopa said during a virtual meeting.
Deputy President Paul Mashatile was the latest high-profile politician to promise an end to load shedding by 2024.
“We want to put load-shedding behind us by next year. So, we are going to push, but we are very careful not to push our power stations to the point of breakdown,” he said last week.
Energy expert Chris Yelland slated these comments, saying the government is misleading South Africans.
Yelland highlighted that Eskom’s EAF is still on a downward trend when considering the year-on-year change.
The latest Eskom week-on-week EAF is nowhere near 70% and continues to decline.
For the last week in August, Eskom’s EAF was 55.32%, compared to 61.10% for week 34, 2022. The EAF for the 2023 year to date is 54.52%, compared to 59.78% for the same period in 2022.
“The government’s messaging that the EAF is heading upwards and is close to 70% is just not true,” he said.
Energy expert Clyde Mallinson also 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,” he said.
Mallinson said South Africa can only look to cope with load-shedding and reduce it in the short term, not eliminate it.
“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.”
To see what is really happening, Daily Investor analysed Eskom’s performance and load-shedding under Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
For this analysis, we looked at the performance since Ramokgopa was appointed and compared it with the same period last year.
It should be noted that Ramokgopa inherited a poorly functioning Eskom, which will take a long time to fix.
This analysis should, therefore, be seen as a reality check of the political promises rather than Ramokgopa’s competence.
Load-shedding increase under Ramokgopa
Daily Investor created a moving load-shedding stage average to create a continuous data series to visualise the progression of load-shedding stages.
The data revealed that the year-on-year load-shedding severity has increased since Ramokgopa was appointed as electricity minister.
The average year-on-year load-shedding stage increased from 1.94 in 2022 to 2.64 in 2023 under Ramokgopa’s leadership.
The moving average chart of load-shedding shows the progress in the severity of load-shedding stages from 2022 to the same period in 2023 under Ramokgopa.
Eskom power outages
Eskom has three forms of power outages:
- Planned maintenance outages (planned capability loss factor – PCLF)
- Unplanned outages (Unplanned capability loss factor – UCLF)
- Outages by other constraints from Eskom’s side (Other capability loss factor – OCLF)
These outages are reported as unavailable units as a percentage of total unit capacity measured over a certain time.
Of these, the UCLF and the OCLF are the most significant as they point to failures on Eskom’s side.
Plotting the combined power unavailability due to UCLF and OCLF shows the increased outages under Ramokgopa compared to the same period in 2022.
The average energy unavailability due to these factors has increased from 32% in 2022 to 35% in 2023 under Ramokgopa.
Energy availability factor
Another important measurement of Eskom’s performance is energy availability, depicted as the EAF.
The EAF shows the percentage of time the power station was available for use when it was needed. It is a core measure of performance for any power utility.
The EAF has experienced a noticeable deterioration since Ramokgopa has been appointed as minister. It declined from 60% in 2022 to 55% in 2023 under Ramokgopa.