Load-shedding will be back soon

Energy experts have warned that load-shedding will return in the coming week as demand ramps up due to colder weather. Eskom has promised to limit power cuts to stage 2 but has not ruled out the possibility of higher stages. 

Parts of South Africa are expected to be hit by a cold front starting Monday, with Gauteng set to be hit particularly hard. 

This has led City Power to issue a warning to Johannesburg residents that prolonged power outages may occur if they do not use electricity sparingly in the next few weeks. 

The utility said its system is under immense strain due to high consumption, which has been exacerbated by a recent temperature drop.

Certain areas are also reaching concerning usage levels that threaten to overload electricity equipment and cause regional blackouts. 

“The City energy supplier appeals to its customers to urgently reduce electricity consumption to alleviate the strain on the system and avoid the implementation of load reduction,” its statement read. 

This situation is not confined to Johannesburg, with Eskom’s latest Weekly System Status Report showing that demand has increased nationwide. 

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

While still far below 2023 levels, contracted energy demand has risen above the utility’s forecast for 2024. This trend is likely to continue as the country progresses into deep winter. 

Despite Eskom’s improved performance, the utility has not increased the electricity supply to the extent where it can confidently say that load-shedding will not occur in winter. 

The utility’s CEO, Dan Marokane, said that Eskom’s performance has improved significantly, with breakdowns down nearly 10% compared with last year and a 19% decrease in unit trips.

However, Marokane said the current unplanned losses of 14,200 MW were still unsustainable and likely to result in load-shedding in winter. The utility plans to contain this to stage 2. 

Marokane is not alone in urging caution regarding the prolonged suspension of load-shedding. 

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has also warned South Africans that load-shedding will return as Eskom will inevitably experience setbacks in the future. 

At the end of April, he said that Eskom is bound to suffer significant setbacks given the nature of what the utility does and how big of an organisation it is. 

“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 that can’t be substantiated.”

The head of energy at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), Professor Sampson Mamphweli, has warned that load-shedding may go as high as stage 5 in winter. 

South Africa has so far experienced a warmer-than-expected winter, which, when coupled with increased generation from rooftop solar, has allowed the utility to stave off load-shedding. 

Mamphweli explained that the increased generation from solar during the day allows Eskom to build up its reserves for the evening peak. 

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. 

Mamphweli’s analysis echoes that of University of Johannesburg professor Hartmut Winkler, who said that load-shedding will return despite lower demand due to the rise of rooftop solar. 

Winkler said Eskom has presented an optimistic view to the public regarding the situation it will find itself in during winter, adding that he expects South Africa to oscillate between stages 1 and 3.


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