Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said that, based on the evidence in front of him, he does not anticipate significantly higher stages of load-shedding during winter this year.
Ramokgopa was speaking to the media during a visit to the troubled Kusile power station in Mpumalanga this week.
Earlier this year, former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said that 2023 would be a tough year for load-shedding with at least stage six power cuts, and possibly worse, during winter.
Many other experts, including former Eskom executive Robbie van Heerden and Intellidex capital markets head, Peter Attard Montalto, also warned of intensified load-shedding in winter.
Van Heerden said South Africa would most likely go to stage 8 load-shedding during winter and that power cuts would continue for many years.
Montalto said South Africans should brace themselves for consistent stage 7 load-shedding from July 2023.
Many people are also alarmed by a new load-shedding framework that prepares for higher stages of power cuts.
Vally Padayachee from the NRS Association of South Africa said that Eskom is reviewing the load-shedding framework to prepare for load-shedding to exceed stage 8 in the future.
It is a proactive measure for Eskom and municipalities to be ready to respond should it be necessary.
“Eskom’s grid is at a critical stage, and no professional can guarantee that South Africa could not go beyond stage 8 load-shedding,” he said.
Eskom’s acting head of generation, Thomas Conradie, said they are revising the code of practice, which can extend its load-shedding schedule to stage 16.
He said it is responsible for the new rotational power cut document to cater to higher load-shedding stages.
The new document would avoid a situation where Eskom will need to “jump around” to reduce the load on the grid beyond stage 8.
Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa on load-shedding
Ramokgopa has a more optimistic outlook than De Ruyter, Van Heerden, and Montalto, saying he does not expect higher stages of load-shedding in winter.
“Based on the evidence which is before me, I don’t anticipate going to significantly higher stages of load-shedding in winter,” he said.
The electricity minister added that the trend line at important power stations like Kriel and Duvha is going up.
Kusile has performed particularly poorly, with five units out and unable to produce power to stave off load-shedding.
Ramokgopa is confident that four of the five units will be online by 24 December, while the last unit will be operational by February 2024.
There is also the possibility of adding additional power to the grid through the Kriel power station with a better grade of coal.
“If we don’t get an extremely cold winter and continue to see the current improvements, I don’t anticipate going to higher stages of load-shedding,” the minister said.
When asked what had changed from a month ago when Eskom warned about severe load-shedding in winter, Ramokgopa said he is communicating what he heard from the power stations.
“I have engaged with the power station management and technical staff. The energy availability factor trendlines are up with an exponential improvement,” he said.
“I am not a typical politician with a suit having a general conversation. I am an engineer engaging in a robust technical discussion with other competent engineers.”
The electricity minister is confident of Eskom’s ability to improve the performance of power plants and bring load-shedding under control.