South African energy disaster in blue, yellow, and red

The latest power blackout statistics by independent energy analyst Pieter Jordaan illustrate Eskom’s collapse and inability to serve South Africa’s energy demand.

Eskom had virtually no load-shedding between 2016 and 2018. However, in 2019, blackouts made an unwelcome return.

When load-shedding hit stage 6 in December 2019, it was such a shock that President Cyril Ramaphosa cut short a two-day state visit to Egypt to address the issue.

The president, joined by former deputy president David Mabuza, visited Eskom executives at Megawatt Park to discuss what happened.

Ramaphosa surprised the Eskom executives during a media conference after the meeting by blaming sabotage for the increased load-shedding.

“What has also come out as a great concern is that there has been a measure of sabotage, sabotage that has led to the loss during this period of 2,000MW,” the president said.

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said Ramaphosa provided false information to the nation about the real cause of stage 6 load-shedding in 2019.

De Ruyter said the true reason was Eskom’s incompetence. Heavy rains where the Medupi and Matimba power stations were located caused problems with wet coal.

“A large part of Eskom’s coal stockpiles had become too wet to be transported effectively on conveyor belts and too wet to burn,” De Ruyter wrote.

Another problem was a lack of proper maintenance, which caused increased breakdowns and, in turn, a loss in generation capacity.

De Ruyter admitted that sabotage at power stations is real. However, it can be tricky, sometimes impossible, to distinguish it from incompetence.

Despite promises from Ramaphosa and politicians that the energy crisis would be addressed, it rapidly deteriorated.

Every year, load-shedding intensified to a stage where South Africa experienced daily power cuts.

This year, stage 6 load-shedding became a regular feature. In fact, most people were surprised that the country did not experience stage 8 power cuts.

It has become so commonplace that Ramaphosa said South Africans should see the current stage 6 load-shedding in a positive light as it is “short-term pain for longer-term gain”.

“The load-shedding that we are going through now is occasioned by what Eskom is having to do to reposition the generation of our fleet,” he said.

“They are maintaining our fleet. They are ensuring that incidents of load-shedding in the past because of unplanned load-shedding events like breakdowns are put behind us.”

However, South Africans were justifiably sceptical of Ramaphosa’s promise of reduced power cuts as they have heard it once too often.

In September 2015, for example, he told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that load-shedding would be over by September 2017.

“In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power or energy and Eskom ever existed,” he said.

However, load-shedding intensified after September 2017 and became a permanent feature in the country in recent years.

There is also no end in sight. Eskom’s latest system status report shows it will face severe electricity shortages for the next twelve months, which will result in significant load-shedding.

Eskom’s “Medium-Term System Adequacy Outlook 2024 – 2028” report also showed that Eskom’s problems are unlikely to be resolved soon.

The newly released study reviews the anticipated electricity generation resources to meet South Africa’s forecasted demand in the next five years.

It showed South Africa will have a significant electricity generation shortfall over the next five years – even with moderate electricity demand growth.

South Africa’s electricity disaster

The power blackout charts below, courtesy of Pieter Jordaan, illustrate Eskom’s collapse and inability to serve South Africa’s energy demand.


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