South Africa

Load-shedding shock for South Africa

Research by the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) revealed that cumulative load-shedding in 2023 dwarfs previous years, raising serious concerns about winter.

The BER is part of the faculty of economic and management sciences at Stellenbosch University and is one of the oldest economic research institutes in South Africa.

It has a globally recognised reputation for independent, objective, and authoritative economic research and forecasting.

The BER released a chart showing that cumulative load-shedding, measured in GWh, in the first two months of 2023 was more than ten times higher than in previous years.

It further revealed that South Africa experienced more load-shedding in January and February 2023 than it did for the whole of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

“The extent of load-shedding in 2023 relative to earlier years, even 2022, is striking,” the BER said in a social media post.

What is of particular concern is that load-shedding typically started to accelerate when demand increased in winter.

In 2022, for example, there were only seven days of load-shedding in January and February. In May 2022, South Africa experienced 26 days of load-shedding.

In 2023, the country experienced load-shedding every day of the year, often at stage four, five, or six.

It raises concerns that increased demand in winter will result in higher stages of load-shedding which can leave the country in the dark for half of the day – or even longer.

The graph below, courtesy of the BER, shows the amount of load-shedding measured per cumulative GWh shed per year. The rapidly rising dotted blue line on the left is for 2023 (to date).

Winter load-shedding concerns

The concerning data released by the Bureau for Economic Research substantiates concerns from former Eskom executives about the dire state of the power utility’s generation division.

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said 2023 would be a tough year for load-shedding, with at least stage six power cuts, and possibly worse, during winter.

Eskom’s former general manager of system operations, Robbie van Heerden, said South Africa would most likely go to stage 8 during winter.

“People must realise that South Africa is in a very bad situation. Load-shedding will not go away. It will not stop at the end of the year,” he said.

“The maintenance at Eskom is pathetic. There are maintenance agreements which have not been done for two years.”

Another former Eskom CEO, Matshela Koko, said South Africa is facing stage 8 load-shedding unless the power utility addresses excessive breakdowns at its power stations.

He explained that the projected peak demand in July is 34,000MW, while Eskom’s expected available capacity, based on current data, will only be 25,945MW.

It leaves Eskom with a deficit of over 8,000MW, which equates to stage 8 load-shedding. Should more breakdowns occur, it can push load-shedding even higher.

The charts below, courtesy of The Outlier and EskomSePush, show the load-shedding days in 2022 and 2023.


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