Load-shedding will be back – even as South Africans use less power

Professor Hartmut Winkler from the University of Johannesburg said load-shedding will return despite lower demand from South African businesses and households.

Winkler told SABC News that the load-shedding reprieve over the last few weeks is due to South Africans using less power.

Electricity demand is 6% less in 2024 than in 2023. This is partly because many businesses and households have installed rooftop solar.

Another change from last year is that three generating units at the Kusile power station returned to service.

These units generate 2,400 MW if they operate at their peak capacity, eliminating two load-shedding stages.

However, with electricity demand set to spike as the country enters the winter period, load-shedding will return.

During winter, the electricity demand in South Africa is around 6,000 MW higher than during summer.

During its Winter 2024 Outlook presentation, Eskom said South Africans may see load-shedding this winter, but it will likely be limited to stage 2.

Winkler said this is an optimistic view, adding that he expects South Africa to oscillate between stage 1 and 3 during winter.

He dismissed speculation that the load-shedding reprieve is linked to the 2024 general elections on 29 May.

There are two ways Eskom can ‘artificially’ prevent load-shedding – cut planned maintenance and burn more diesel.

However, Winkler said these strategies cannot be sustained over a long period. Eventually, load-shedding will have to return.

“Eskom is still doing maintenance – they have not stopped its maintenance. They are also using less diesel this month than the same period last year,” he said.

Winkler’s views align with Eskom System Operator head Isabel Fick’s feedback that increased photovoltaic solar power helped Eskom cut load-shedding in April.

2,800 MW of photovoltaic solar is directly connected to the Eskom grid, with other “behind-the-meter” solar installations of around 5,440 MW.

Fick said the contributions of these solar power plants and rooftop solar installations allowed Eskom to replenish its pumped storage capacity during the day rather than at night.

Eskom can then use its emergency generation capacity – pumped storage and diesel-powered open-cycle gas turbines – over the evening peak when solar energy is unavailable.

This means that Eskom achieved a load-shedding-free April without burning more diesel.


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