Illustrative image | Sources: Protesters march on 25 January 2023 in Cape Town. South Africa faces another year of extensive load shedding according to Eskom. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach) | Domestic appliances plugged into an electrical extension port. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | iStock
14 Sep 2023 17
Another ‘perfect storm’ has edged South Africa closer to Stage 7 power cuts. And the forecast doesn’t look good for 52 weeks.
Listen to this article
0:00 / 3:59
South Africa has been nudged toward Stage 7 load shedding, as Eskom’s planning hit a second perfect storm this week.
Eskom’s revised estimates of unplanned outages have increased astronomically week-on-week according to its latest system status report uploaded to its website.
Breakdowns and Baguettes
Get your updates on the Rugby World Cup, with Maverick Sports editor Craig Ray reporting from Paris, direct to your inbox free of charge.
The Cabinet’s statement on Thursday that more intense load shedding will be short-lived is not borne out by the data.
The data contained in Eskom’s latest system status report for Week 36, indicates that more than 2,000MW of capacity will be short for the next 52 weeks.
The planned risk scenario for the next 52 weeks, taken directly from the Week 36 Eskom system status report, looks vastly different from the previous Week 35 report. Essentially, three stages of load shedding have been added to Eskom’s unplanned outage assumption in a week.
In its system status report for Week 35, the power utility had seemingly planned for breakdowns to average 13,000MW to 15,000MW over the following year. However, Eskom now assumes unplanned outages (breakdowns) are likely to average 16,000MW for the next 52 weeks.
Eskom’s latest weekly system status report, indicating that more than 2,000MW of capacity will be short for the next 52 weeks.(Screenshot: Eskom)
Eskom’s weekly system status report for the previous week (Week 35). (Screenshot: Eskom)
Icy temperatures, multiple generator breakdowns and increased planned maintenance created another perfect storm at Eskom this week, which has seen South Africa skirting Stage 7 power cuts.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa in mid-July, said a brutal cold front had caused the national grid to teeter as a result of a similar combination of soaring demand, plummeting generating capacity and increased breakdowns.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramokgopa blames ‘perfect storm’ for bumped-up blackouts, but says ‘lessons’ were learnt – here they are
On Tuesday evening, the power utility implemented Stage 6 power cuts “until further notice,” following the delay in returning units to service and amid a cold front which caused electricity demand to spike. This showed how tenuous the national grid still is despite commitments to the contrary by Eskom and Ramokgopa.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Electricity Minister Ramokgopa’s report card after six months on the job has been less than electrifying
Stage 6 allows for up to 6,000MW of the national load to be shed. During evening peak on Tuesday, the utility shed 6,362MW from the grid.
A general view of Cape Town during loadshedding on 29 September 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Leila Dougan)
On Wednesday, Eskom urged South Africans to lower their electricity demand during the evening peak, to “assist in alleviating pressure on the system and avoid higher stages of load shedding”.
“Due to the cold weather, we appeal to all members of the public to reduce the electricity demand between 5pm and 21:00, by switching off non-essential appliances, mainly geysers, swimming pool pumps and electric heaters,” it said in a Tweet.
It signalled a remarkable escalation in the deterioration of Eskom’s ability to supply South African households and businesses with power, after a week that had not been much better.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Shedding some light on Eskom’s eight stages of grief and pain
According to Eskom, Stage 7 load shedding means that up to 7,000MW needs to be cut from the national grid. Eskom explains that this means consumers can expect to be shed up to 12 times over a four-day period: three times for two hours and nine times for four hours.
Eskom has been asked to respond to the 52-week forecast, and this article will be updated accordingly. DM