South Africa

Eskom EAF collapses to historic low

Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) plummeted to 50.84%, well below the same period last year and a new low for February.

The EAF shows the percentage of time the power station was available for use when it was needed. It is a core measure of performance for any power utility.

Energy analyst Chris Yelland said it was not surprising that the EAF plummeted, considering South Africa experienced stage 6 load-shedding.

“It is unsurprising that after a week of load-shedding up to stage 6, the week-on-week EAF for week 6, 2024, continued its drop to 50.84%,” he said.

He added that it was below the figures for the same period last year, and despite three 800 MW coal-fired units at Kusile power station being returned to service in November 2023.

The declining EAF is particularly concerning because it is the core metric for Eskom to lighten and eventually stop load-shedding.

In January 2023, Eskom chair Mpho Makwana said they had embarked on a turnaround journey to improve plant performance and reduce load-shedding.

Makwana set targets of 60% EAF by 31 March 2023, 65% EAF by 31 March 2024, and 70% by 31 March 2025.

These targets formed the foundation of Eskom’s plan to meet the country’s electricity demand and end rolling blackouts.

Unless Eskom succeeds in increasing the reliability of its generation fleet, South Africa should expect many more years of load-shedding.

The latest data shared by energy analyst Chris Yelland showed that Eskom’s EAF is on a declining downward trend, which has been the case for the past five years.

It is, therefore, highly unlikely that South Africans will see the end of rolling blackouts in the near future.

It also flies in the face of promises by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President Paul Mashatile, and other ANC politicians that load-shedding will end in 2024.

In May 2023, Ramaphosa promised that the end of load-shedding should be in sight soon, with its severity reducing in the short term.

In August 2023, he doubled down on his promise, saying the government is doing great work to fix Eskom and the energy crisis and that load-shedding will end by 2024.

Mashatile repeated Ramaphosa’s promise, saying the government wants to “put load-shedding behind us by next year [2024]”.

“So, we are going to push, but we are very careful not to push our power stations to the point of breakdown,” he said.

African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Fikile Mbalula made an even bolder promise, saying load-shedding will be a thing of the past before the end of 2023.

In his 2024 State of the Nation address, Ramaphosa sang the praises of the government’s quest to resolve the energy crisis.

“We set out a clear plan to end load-shedding, which we have been implementing with a single-minded focus through the National Energy Crisis Committee,” he said.

He listed numerous interventions, including the Eskom debt-relief package, the renewable energy programme, solar tax incentives, and regulatory reforms.

“Through all these actions, we are confident that the worst is behind us and the end of load-shedding is finally within reach,” he said.

However, these are nothing more than empty words. With the declining EAF moving away from the 65% target rather than towards it, South Africa’s electricity outlook looks bleak.

The chart below, courtesy of Yelland and EE Business Intelligence, shows Eskom’s EAF since 2021. The green line on the bottom left shows the 2024 EAF year-to-date.


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