Eskom has ‘no clear plan’ – load-shedding for five more years

Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vow to end load-shedding at his 2024 State of the Nation Address, experts suggest that the energy crisis is likely to last another five years.

University of Johannesburg’s Professor Hartmut Winkler said in a recent interview that Eskom’s current infrastructure has aged to the point of deterioration. Until new generation capacity is put in place, load-shedding is unlikely to improve.

“Just like an old car, once things get to that stage, you are just going to have those very frequent breakdowns,” he said.

He was optimistic about leaning more on renewable energy to combat the energy crisis but cautioned that the government needs to agree on a transition strategy.

“At the moment, we don’t really have a clear plan of where to go,” he said.

The solution ultimately lies in bringing in new generation infrastructure, but this takes more time and funding.

Winkler suggested that renewables could provide a portion of the country’s power, while new generative capacity for existing energy sources could service the remainder.

“The way to go is to install more renewables, get those up to the level where about half the country’s electricity is run off renewables – the rest off coal, nuclear and gas – and then see from there.”

Energy analyst Chris Yelland

Energy analyst and managing director of EE Business Intelligence, Chris Yelland, also offered a humbling forecast, predicting that load-shedding will continue into the foreseeable future.

Yelland’s outlook was grimmer, as he suggested that Eskom may never return to full capacity operation. He said the escalating number of unplanned outages points to a situation that is not under control.

“Such levels of unplanned outages indicate deep problems,” he said.

“We must temper our expectations that Eskom can be fixed. The reality is that this plant is damaged and old, and it’s been poorly treated and poorly maintained.”

Yelland said there are a multitude of valuable resources which are not being “completely ignored by Eskom”, such as renowned welding companies.

He said that simply continuing to service the current infrastructure is unlikely to ever lead to a country free from load-shedding.

The current generation infrastructure is simply too old, and repairs are not enough – Eskom must invest in new infrastructure.

“What we need now is new generation capacity that performs like new generation capacity,” he said.

However, the funding needed to invest in new coal-powered plants is hard to come by.

The short-term solution lies in growing the private sector’s role in energy creation. More private sector involvement will relieve Eskom of the electricity burden that they are unable to handle.

“The only real thing that can be done in the short term is that the private sector installs more self-generation,” said Yelland.

The increased use of rooftop solar PV and battery storage at the domestic, commercial, and agricultural levels in recent years has already led to significant improvements in load-shedding.

“Private sector needs to become part of the solution and not treated with distrust, as the enemy,” he said.


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