Load-shedding will return after elections

Energy expert Mthunzi Luthuli warned that load-shedding will return after the 2024 National Elections. However, that does not mean Eskom did not improve.

South Africa experienced two months without power cuts, which is unprecedented considering the daily load-shedding people became accustomed to.

It raised speculation that the ruling party orchestrated the load-shedding reprieve to limit the pain at the ballot box.

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter added fuel to the fire, saying, “If the lights are on, well done. However, they are on because we are pouring money into diesel at a rate of knots.”

Eskom dismissed it as a conspiracy theory, saying its successful Generation Operational Recovery Plan was the reason behind less load-shedding.

The plan, which started in March 2023, improved the performance and reliability of Eskom’s generation fleet.

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati also dismissed theories that the load-shedding reprieve is an election ploy by the government.

Nyati said the Eskom board was not driving the agenda of any political party. “We are not playing any political games,” he said.

“That is not who we are, and we will never start playing those games. Our focus is to help sort out South Africa’s challenges.”

He also credited Eskom’s improved maintenance plan, which focuses on accelerating and executing planned maintenance.

Eskom partnered with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with deep expertise about the equipment used at that plant to perform maintenance.

The maintenance was far superior to before and ensured generation units returning to service were far more reliable.

This intervention helped to reduce Eskom’s unplanned outages and rapidly increase its energy availability factor (EAF).

Year-to-date, in 2024, Eskom’s unplanned outages reached the lowest level since 2021. Its energy availability is also the highest in four years.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

Despite Eskom’s performance improvement, many energy experts have warned that load-shedding will return this winter.

Mthunzi Luthuli is one of the experts who said load-shedding will be back after the 2024 National Elections.

He highlighted Eskom warned that load-shedding will return during winter based on its forecasts.

Luthuli referred to Eskom’s Winter 2024 Outlook presentation, which said South Africans may see load shedding this winter but will likely be limited to stage 2.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa also warned that load shedding was not a thing of the past and that Eskom will experience setbacks in the future.

“We are still working on the reliability of Eskom’s generating units, and that’s why you can’t speak with great confidence that load shedding is behind us,” he said.

The head of energy at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), Professor Sampson Mamphweli, concurred.

Mamphweli said the main reasons for no load-shedding were Eskom’s improved performance, more solar PV installations, and a warmer-than-expected winter.

However, as temperatures start to drop and electricity demand increases, Eskom’s generation fleet will come under pressure.

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

The University of Johannesburg’s Professor Hartmut Winkler is even more bearish, saying Eskom’s stage 2 estimates are optimistic.

He said the load-shedding holiday, likely to end in the next few weeks, was due to the electricity demand being 6% less in 2024 than in 2023.

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

Winkler expects South Africa to oscillate between stage 1 and 3 load-shedding during winter.


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