Energy

Government’s big load-shedding lie

President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ministers claim increased maintenance is behind increased load-shedding and that power cuts will be eliminated soon. However, Eskom’s data shows it is not true.

On Wednesday morning, Eskom announced that it implemented stage 4 load-shedding until further notice.

It explained it was due to insufficient emergency reserves and generation capacity constraints as four units did not return to service as planned.

According to EskomSePush data, South Africa last experienced stage 4 load-shedding on 15 September 2023.

Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni explained that the load-shedding in recent weeks, including the most recent bout, was due to increased maintenance.

“There is increased load-shedding because Eskom is ramping up its maintenance programme,” she told Newzroom Africa.

Ntshavheni referenced electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, who, over the last two months, said people should expect intensified power cuts in the short term because of maintenance.

Her comments echoed those of President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President Paul Mashatile in recent weeks.

In September, Ramaphosa said South Africans should see high stages of 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,” Ramaphosa said.

“They are maintaining our fleet. They are making sure that incidents of load-shedding that have been given rise to in the past because of unplanned load-shedding events like breakdowns are put behind us.”

Mashatile told the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association that intensive maintenance was being done at power stations to relieve the ongoing power cuts on a long-term basis.

“We are allowing Minister Ramokgopa to do a lot of maintenance. So, if you see a bit of a spike at the moment, they are doing intensive maintenance,” he said.

“They have taken a lot of them for maintenance. When they return online, you will see reduced load shedding.”

Listening to Ramaphosa and his ministers creates the impression that Eskom has significantly increased maintenance. However, Eskom’s data reveals it is untrue.

In November 2023, Eskom performed less maintenance than it did during the same period in 2022, 2021, and 2020.

Over the last three weeks, Eskom’s planned capability loss factor (PCLF), also known as planned maintenance, was 4,830 MW.

This was lower than the planned maintenance of 4,848 MW in November 2022, 5,071 MW in November 2021, and 7,321 MW in November 2020.

Daily Investor asked the electricity ministry for feedback on the seemingly conflicting statements about maintenance, but it did not respond by the time of publication.

The chart below shows Eskom’s planned maintenance decline over the last four years.

Promising the end of load-shedding

Ramaphosa, Mashatile, and Ntshavheni claimed that the maintenance will result in the end of load-shedding in 2024.

Ntshavheni said the electricity minister had done great work, and by next year, there would be minimal to no load-shedding.

It followed Ramaphosa’s comments in August that “we are certain that by 2024, the energy crisis will be over”.

In September, Mashatile said they were very confident that “we will end the year on a much better footing when it comes to load shedding.”

“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.”

Energy experts, including Chris Yelland, warned that these promises give consumers and businesses false hope and downplay the severity of the energy crisis.

“This is the type of election talk – with big promises and bold statements – that we have become used to,” Yelland said.

“I would have hoped that the President learned from past experience not to make bold and ill-informed statements.”

Yelland’s view is backed up by Eskom’s latest reports, which show significant electricity supply shortfalls in the coming years.

Eskom’s 2023 Week 45 system status report’s 52-week outlook forecasts that electricity demand will be much higher than available generating capacity for every week of the year ahead.

The outlook between 13 November 2023 and 18 November 2024 shows that the likely risk scenario is a shortfall of over 2,001 MW for the next 12 months.

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

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

The table below shows Eskom’s demand forecast versus the available generating capacity for each week for the next year.

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