Electricity minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has dismissed reports of Eskom implementing stage 8 load-shedding, saying that “such information is not sitting with me”.
Ramokgopa made these comments outside an African National Congress (ANC) National Working Committee (NWC) meeting on Monday with the SABC.
He said that, from the beginning of his tenure as electricity minister, “I am going to be open, transparent, and brutally honest with the South African public”.
He said this transparency would be clear to the NWC when he presented his action plan to end load-shedding to the committee.
The NWC has “seen it fit that it must elevate the conversation around the energy crisis” among both government and the public. Ramokgopa’s transparency with the public is part of these efforts.
In his presentation, the minister noted “some reporting that suggests we are already at stage 8”. However, he dismissed these, saying that “such information is not sitting with me”.
A series of high-level meetings have been held with the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, and the Eskom board.
The utility’s winter plan was discussed in these meetings. Demand is expected to rise by 5,000MW during winter to 37,000MW.
This will put immense pressure on the utility’s generation fleet.
Stage 8 was implemented last week
Daily Investor reported that load-shedding hit 7,072MW on Thursday, 13 April, which, according to Eskom’s definition, equates to stage 8.
Eskom’s evening peak data revealed that it had 23,771MW of generation capacity available while total demand was 30,747MW.
Eskom avoided saying it implemented stage 8 load-shedding, explaining that the 7,072MW load-shedding included “stage 6 and load curtailment stage 4”.
However, this is merely another way of saying it implemented 7,072MW of load-shedding, which is, by its definition, stage 8.
Warning of elevated load-shedding during winter
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, 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 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 warned that the situation would worsen during winter because of significantly higher demand.
The country is currently experiencing level 6 load-shedding because 25,000MW is unavailable due to breakdowns and planned maintenance.
Eskom, therefore, has only 21,000MW availability dispatchable capacity. With the help of renewable energy and independent power producers, it was increased to 23,771MW.
The available generation capacity is significantly lower than the demand of 30,747MW experienced on Thursday evening.
Therefore, Eskom implemented 7,072MW of load-shedding to ensure demand does not exceed supply and cause a grid collapse.
Historical data showed that winter electricity demand peaks between 35,000MW and 37,000MW.
If only 21,000MW of dispatchable generation capacity is available, South Africa will have a shortfall between 10,000MW and 16,000MW.
Without drastically increasing the available generation capacity or decreasing demand, South Africa could face stage 10 or higher load-shedding in winter.