Energy

Eskom load-shedding worst-case warning – with stage 7 during summer

An analysis of Eskom’s load-shedding forecasts revealed that the worst-case scenario is the most likely, which means South Africans should brace for extensive power cuts this summer.

Eskom shared its Summer Outlook during its State of the System briefing on 27 September, predicting 116 days of load-shedding in the summer months.

As part of its outlook, Eskom assumed that the performance of its generation fleet would improve, with three units from Kusile returning to the grid.

Eskom’s acting CEO, Calib Cassim, said South Africa got through the winter months better than expected, with lower-than-planned demand and improved generating capacity.

It is optimistic that this trend will continue. Eskom wants to limit load-shedding to below stage 4 and unplanned outages to below 14,500 MW.

Many people are sceptical of Eskom’s load-shedding promises as the reality has often been worse than the power utility predicted.

Professor Hartmut Winkler from the University of Johannesburg said it would be better for Eskom to admit it is in a crisis rather than focus on the best-case scenario.

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

The best-case scenario, which anticipates 116 days of load-shedding peaking at stage 4, assumes that Eskom will 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.

Winkler’s warning is substantiated by historical data from Eskom’s previous State of the System briefings.

Eskom has provided load-shedding predictions since 2021, giving its best-, mid- and worst-case scenarios.

Measuring the predictions against what really happened shows that Eskom consistently delivered its worst-case scenario.

On average, the results showed that South Africa experienced 9% more days of load-shedding than Eskom’s worst-case scenario predicted.

The highest load-shedding stage was also higher than what Eskom predicted in its worst-case scenario.

The tables below, using Eskom’s State of the System outlooks and real-world data courtesy of The Outlier, show the predictions versus what really happened.

Days of load-sheddingBest CaseMid CaseWorst CaseActualScenario Realised
Sep 2021 to Aug 202214094121>worst case
Sep 2022 to Aug 20239200319356>worst case
Apr 2022 to Mar 202316169295280>worst case
Apr 2023 to Aug 2023122152153153worst case
Load-shedding stageBest CaseMid CaseWorst CaseActualScenario Realised
Sep 2021 to Aug 2022Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 6>worst case
Sep 2022 to Aug 2023Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 6>worst case
Apr 2022 to Mar 2023Stage 1Stage 3Stage 4Stage 6>worst case
Apr 2023 to Aug 2023Stage 5Stage 6Stage 8Stage 6mid-case

Worst case scenario for summer

Unless there is a significant intervention or Eskom achieves precisely what it is planning without anything going wrong, South Africans should prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Eskom’s worst-case scenario for the period between 1 September 2023 and 31 March 2024 predicts 211 days of load shedding, peaking at stage 7.

Based on the historical information, South Africans can expect 213 days of load-shedding, which peaks at stage 7.

The table below shows Eskom’s summer outlook and the expected scenario using the power utility’s historical performance.

Eskom PredictionBest CaseMid CaseWorst CaseExpectation
Load-shedding days116187211213
Load-shedding stageStage 4Stage 6Stage 7At least stage 7

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