Reserve Bank expects a lot more load-shedding in 2024

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) expects around 200 more days of load-shedding in 2024, despite the past few weeks having been power cut-free.

This was revealed in the latest SARB Monetary Policy Review for April, which said load-shedding is expected to decrease gradually in the next three years but will still be a significant drag on growth.

South Africa experienced a meagre 0.6% GDP growth in 2023, which the SARB said amounts to very poor output growth when measured against a growing population and labour force.

However, the SARB’s near- and medium-term outlook is for growth to increase, albeit slowly, as electricity supply improves gradually.

This improvement will be underpinned by the ongoing private investment in renewable energy generation and increased maintenance by Eskom.

“Although the full implementation of the energy and logistics sector reforms will ease the performance challenges in these network industries, inadequate electricity supply and logistical bottlenecks are expected to remain a drag on the economy,” the SARB said.

“In the near term, uncertainty around the reliability of electricity supply persists as the grid remains fragile amid still-elevated unplanned outages, as evidenced by the occasional bouts of Stage 6 load-shedding earlier this year.”

The graph below shows the SARB’s outlook for load-shedding over the next few years.

Load-shedding is not over

Energy expert Professor Mark Swilling has echoed the SARB’s statements, saying that South Africa is not out of the woods yet despite a recent reprieve from load-shedding, as the country still faces an electricity crisis.

Swilling told SABC News that South Africa does not have an Eskom crisis but a national electricity system crisis.

His comments come after South Africa has experienced over 25 days of no load-shedding. However, Swilling warned that South Africa is not out of the woods yet, and load-shedding will return.

“No expert is going to tell you that now that we’ve had quite a long period of no load-shedding, we’re out of the woods,” he said. 

“No Eskom official can put their hand on their heart and say tomorrow morning we will continue to have no load-shedding because there’s a lot of instability – anything can happen tomorrow.”

Swilling explained that the uncertainty and instability in South Africa’s electricity system is due to Eskom’s ageing coal fleet.

Some of the older power stations were going to be closed or refurbished, but this plan was changed in the government’s latest Integrated Resource Plan.

Swilling said this means it will become increasingly difficult to keep these stations working reliably.

“All that we can be certain about is that there are high levels of uncertainty in the system,” he said.

However, Swilling said progress is being made in addressing the crisis.

“I still strongly think we need to accept that we have a crisis, but the solutions are starting to emerge,” he said. 

For example, South Africa is seeing large-scale renewables coming online and more households adopting rooftop solar. This reduces the pressure on the national grid. 


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