South Africa

South Africa’s electricity problem explained in two graphs

Power station

The electricity volume distributed in South Africa improved in August but declined in September, and the energy availability factor remains constrained.

Stats South Africa reported that the volume of electricity distributed in South Africa rose 6.0% month-on-month in August.

The monthly increase helped to contain the year-on-year contraction to 1%, significantly better than the 6.3% drop in the preceding month.

However, Absa believes that the sharply intensified load-shedding last month negatively impacted the volume of electricity distributed in September.

In September, 2,206GWh of electricity was not supplied, compared with 140GWh in August.

Eskom, Stats SA, Absa Research

Meanwhile, Eskom forecasts that the energy availability factor (EAF) will remain constrained.

The EAF reflects the percentage of Eskom’s fleet producing electricity relative to its maximum potential generating capacity.

Over the last six years, Eskom’s energy availability factor has plummeted from around 80% to the current level of below 60%.

In its latest weekly generation status update, Eskom forecasts that the EAF will average a subdued 54.4% in the week of 3 to 9 October. It is slightly worse than the average of 55.3% in the prior week.

However, the composition of the outages is forecast to be slightly better. Breakdowns are still elevated at 29.6% but are lower than 32.3% in the prior week.

Planned maintenance is expected to be ramped up to 14.6% from 11.4%. Eskom has said it will implement load shedding at least until Saturday at 05:00, mainly due to elevated breakdowns.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said the new Eskom board has the mandate to increase the energy availability factor (EAF) to 75%.

However, a few experts highlighted that the Eskom board has very limited powers to address the true challenges Eskom faces.

Like the new board, the previous Eskom board was also tasked with increasing the energy availability factor (EAF) and decreasing load-shedding.

The previous Eskom board told Parliament in March 2021 that it was confident that management was executing its mandate to restructure the business and reduce the risk of load-shedding.

However, by October last year, Eskom’s EAF of 65% was already well below its target of 70% and its own estimate of 72%.

By January 2022, Eskom revised its energy availability factor to 62%. Fast forward to September, and the EAF is likely to be below 60%.

The chart below shows Eskom’s EAF over the last five years, with a clear downward trend.


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