Code Red at Eskom

The latest system report from Eskom is a sea of red, with the utility warning that the next 52 weeks are projected to see generation shortfalls of over 2,000MW (2 stages of load shedding) – at minimum.

The system report features a 52-week projection, which is coded based on the expected supply and demand.

Code Green indicates that the group expects adequate generation to meet demand and feed reserves.

Code Yellow projects a small shortfall to meet reserves (under 1,000MW) but adequate supply to meet demand.

Code Orange anticipates a 1,000MW to 2,000MW shortfall, “definitively” failing to feed reserves and possibly demand.

Code Red is when there is a 2,000+ MW shortfall where both reserves and demand won’t be met, the group said.

In its assessment of the year ahead, Eskom provides both a “planned” risk level – based on its baseline assumptions of megawatts that will be unavailable – and a “likely” risk scenario, based on the baseline assumption being exceeded by 1,500 MW.

The assumptions are all based on the last week of available operational data.

This particular assessment is based on an assumption that 16,000MW will be out due to unplanned outages. Including reserves of 2,200MW, Eskom plans for outages to hit 18,200MW.

In the likely scenario, this ramps up to approximately 20,200MW.

Given these assumptions, the group has pencilled in Code Red – the worst case – for the next 52 weeks.

The forecast comes as Eskom urges South Africa to cut its power demand or risk running beyond stage 6 into even higher stages of load shedding.

Stage 6 load shedding is currently in effect indefinitely.

While the country has not yet moved beyond stage 6 in its national schedules, the power utility has been forced to pull megawatts off the grid that far exceeds the stage 6 definitions.

Eskom defines each stage of load shedding in tranches of 1,000MW – even though this is not a strict technical limit. When stage 1 load shedding hits, for instance, it could reflect anywhere between 800MW and 1,200MW being pulled from the grid.

It also depends on time of day, as demand picks up in the mornings and the evenings, yet national load shedding stages and schedules do not rapidly fluctuate during those hours.

However, despite this flexibility, Eskom has moved into stage 7 load shedding without announcing it nationally, in recent days.

On Wednesday, the group warned that demand has exceeded planned levels over the past few days due to a cold front hitting the country. At the same time, units have gone down, and others have been delayed in returning to service.

If these factors aren’t managed, higher stages of load shedding may be necessary.