Load-shedding warning for winter – with stage 5 possible 

Load-shedding is not a thing of the past. It will return as winter progresses and demand for electricity ramps up, putting Eskom’s generation fleet under pressure. 

This is feedback from the head of energy at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), Professor Sampson Mamphweli. 

Mamphweli told Newzroom Afrika that Eskom’s performance has greatly improved in 2024, with breakdowns being consistently below the levels seen last year. 

This, coupled with increased generation from rooftop solar, has enabled the utility to keep load-shedding at bay for over 50 consecutive days. 

However, apart from the improved performance and the rise in rooftop solar, Eskom has also benefitted from a warmer-than-expected winter. 

The warmer winter, at least so far, has resulted in lower demand for electricity from Eskom, enabling it to keep load-shedding at bay. 

Mamphweli said this situation will likely change as South Africa moves deeper into winter, with temperatures steadily getting colder in June and July. 

This is when Eskom’s grid will face the most pressure and when the country will probably experience load-shedding again. 

“We are looking at stage two load-shedding at least if the situation deteriorates and demand rises as winter gets colder,” Mamphweli said. 

There are reasons to be optimistic, such as the return of units from planned maintenance in the coming weeks. 

However, this will not be enough to keep load-shedding at bay throughout winter. 

“We might see days where we do not have load-shedding, but there could be days where, at worst, it would be stage five load-shedding.”

This will only happen if breakdowns at Eskom’s power stations rise, and thus, the electricity supply rapidly declines. 

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

Mamphweli’s warning echoes those made by the Electricity Minister and energy experts, who have refused to rule out the possibility of load-shedding. 

At the end of April, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa warned South Africans that load-shedding is not a thing of the past and that Eskom will experience setbacks in the future. 

In a media briefing on the implementation of South Africa’s Energy Action Plan, the minister said it is in the nature of the space Eskom operates in to have setbacks.

“We are still working on the reliability of these machines, and that’s why you can’t speak with great confidence that load-shedding is behind us. That would be a false claim, and it can’t be substantiated.”

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

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.


Top JSE indices