Eskom in crisis

It would be better for Eskom to admit it is in a crisis rather than focus on the best-case scenario for load-shedding over the summer months and assume that nothing will go wrong. 

This is feedback from the University of Johannesburg’s Professor Hartmut Winkler following Eskom’s State of the System briefing and the presentation of its Summer Outlook.

If everything goes to plan, Eskom aims to limit load-shedding to 116 days in the summer. It said load-shedding will be kept to a maximum of stage 4. 

However, this is the best-case scenario, which assumes that Eskom can limit its unplanned losses to 14,500 MW. 

If this increases to 16,000 MW, just below what it was for most of the winter, South Africa will experience 187 days of load-shedding with a maximum of stage 6. 

In the worst-case scenario, South Africa will only have two days without load-shedding in summer with a maximum of stage 7. 

“They are focussing on the best case scenario, especially about a maximum of stage 4 load-shedding in the summer. Things can go wrong,” Winkler told Newzroom Afrika

A lot of what Eskom assumed in forecasting a maximum of stage 4 is based on the smooth return to the grid of Kusile and its firing on all cylinders. Given its track record, it is unlikely. 

Winkler said the repairs conducted at Kusile are a “patch-up job” to get the station operational and are not a long-term fix. A long-term fix cannot be done overnight.

Winkler referred to the temporary stacks built at three of Kusile’s six units so that Eskom could return the units to operation a year earlier than expected after the original flue gas ducts collapsed in March 2022.

“Of course, they cannot really tell us the worst-case scenario. Both the public and the government do not want to hear that. They want to hear good news at this point,” said Winkler. 

“It would be much better to admit that we have got a crisis situation than say everything is fine.”

The worst-case scenario is that 2024 ends up being like this year, especially the first half of the year. 

However, “Eskom must be congratulated on stabilising the situation. It appears as though we have hit the bottom, and it will slowly improve from the year, but not at the pace Eskom expects,” said Winkler. 

He estimated that it will still take several years before load-shedding will come to an end, despite the progress being made with increased private sector involvement and electricity generation. 

“Ultimately, the resolution of the power crisis is largely within Eskom’s hands itself,” said Winkler. 

“President Ramaphosa and the Electricity Minister are going to have a hard time convincing the public that things are getting better when it is clear that load-shedding will continue.”


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