Listening to President Cyril Ramaphosa and other ministers about Eskom and load-shedding makes it appear that they have no idea what is really going on.
Yesterday, Ramaphosa said the government and business have created an effective working relationship to tackle the biggest challenges.
“We are confident that, by working together … we will end load-shedding, fix our logistics system, and tackle crime and corruption,” he said.
A press statement added that good traction has been achieved through the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM), established to ensure delivery of the Energy Action Plan (EAP).
This statement followed promises by Ramaphosa, Deputy President Paul Mashatile, and other politicians that load-shedding will end in 2024.
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.
“Energy has been a great drawback to us, but we are working on it, and we are certain that by 2024, the energy crisis will be over,” Ramaphosa said.
Earlier this month, Mashatile said the government wants 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.
African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Fikile Mbalula made an even bolder promise, saying load-shedding will be a thing of the past before the end of the year.
Over the same period as these bold promises by Ramaphosa, Mashatile, and Mbalula, Eskom released data which paints a picture of dark days ahead.
Eskom’s 2023 Week 36 system status report’s 52-week outlook warned of severe electricity generation shortages for the next year.
It was the first time that Eskom’s planned risk level and likely risk scenario were all red. It was essentially a warning of severe load-shedding for at least the next year.
It was also the worst outlook it has ever produced, showing that Eskom is in a worse position now than ever before.
The chart below shows Eskom’s system outlook deterioration between March 2023 and September 2023.
Eskom’s Summer Outlook, which formed part of its State of the System briefing, also warned of at least 116 days of load-shedding in summer.
This estimate is based on a best-case scenario, including three units from Kusile connecting to the grid over the next three months.
Eskom also plans to bring 1,500 MW from Tutuka online in January, 1,752 MW from other losses by March 2024, and 720 MW from Medupi by the middle of 2024.
Eskom acknowledged that there are still many challenges to overcome to achieve these recovery goals.
Eskom aims to limit load-shedding to below stage 4 and unplanned outages to below 14,500 MW during summer.
In the worst-case scenario, South Africa will only have two days without load-shedding in summer with a maximum of stage 7.
Vastly different information from politicians and Eskom
Considering the grim outlook from Eskom regarding load-shedding, it is perplexing how Ramaphosa, Mashatile, and other politicians can promise an end to power cuts by 2024.
It looks like they ignore the reality of Eskom’s challenges and say what sounds good to voters rather than what is real.
Unsurprisingly, energy experts like Chris Yelland warned that Ramaphosa’s promises are the words of a politician and not a President.
“This is the type of election talk – with big promises and bold statements – that we have become used to,” he said.
“I would have hoped that the President learned from past experience not to make bold and ill-informed statements.”
“The President needs to be very careful about listening to his advisors. He should not play to the crowd because people take his words seriously.”
Yelland cautioned against being over-optimistic and listening to politicians’ promises during an election cycle. “We need to be cautious and conservative in our expectations,” he said.
Energy expert Hartmut Winkler also warned that load-shedding will persist far longer than the government predicts.
Winkler said South African households and businesses should prepare to have load-shedding for five more years.
Professor Anton Eberhard, an energy expert from the University of Cape Town (UCT), said the latest data from Eskom is disappointing.
“It is tragic that the new norm in South Africa is a faint hope to limit power cuts to 4,000 megawatts rather than to eliminate them altogether,” he said.