SA can expect load-shedding this summer: Eskom

Eskom coal stocks are at a healthy level and they are making progress in reducing the rand per ton costs of coal, but we'll still have load-shedding this summer. Stock photo.
Eskom coal stocks are at a healthy level and they are making progress in reducing the rand per ton costs of coal, but we'll still have load-shedding this summer. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF / beercrafter

South Africans can expect a number of days of load-shedding this summer.

This is according to Eskom group executive of transmission, Segomoco Scheppers, who spoke at the parastatal's system status and outlook briefing on Monday morning.

Scheppers said coal stocks were at a healthy level and that the entity had done a lot of preparation to avoid wet coal this summer. He said Eskom was also making good progress in reducing the rand per ton cost of coal.

Despite this, SA has already had 21 days of load-shedding between April 1 and August 31 this year, compared to the 12 days of load-shedding the previous year. There have been eight days of load-shedding since September 1.

“A key contributor to the low Energy Availability Factor (EAF) was high levels of planned maintenance over the summer months,” Scheppers said.

“That said, the recent high levels of unplanned outages is a concern, but we continue to drive our reliability maintenance recovery programme.

“Unfortunately, as at October 25, increasing breakdowns and low plant availability meant that Eskom was forced to implement load-shedding totalling 29 days since April 1, compared to 47 days for the 2021 financial year which ended March 31.”

He outlined the “summer plan”, saying that the system operator would need to source operating reserves from demand response products as well as from emergency reserve sources such as interruptible load-shedding and open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).

“The plan requires OCGT usage over weekdays, and low diesel usage on some weekends. The failure of Medupi 4 [which exploded on August 8] has increased the dependency on diesel generation to manage the power system.”

The summer plan outlined by the prediction for the number of days of load-shedding, the highest stage of load-shedding and the OCGT costs for summer are: 

  • base case — 1 day of load-shedding at stage 1 costing R2.5bn [Scheppers cautioned that we have already exceeded this number];
  • base case +1,000MW — 40 days of load-shedding at stage 2, costing R6.7bn; and
  • base case +2,000MW — 94 days of load-shedding at stage 3 costing R13.5bn.

Scheppers clarified that load-shedding occurred when there was a high level of dependency and an unplanned unavailability of electricity, or if there was a prolonged unplanned unavailability of electricity and stored power was dwindling.

Also contributing to load-shedding was the failure of Medupi unit 4 which cuts 800MW to the grid and would require planned outages — and could take as long as two years to fix.

He said the outlook was “not good”.

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