DURBAN - The Statistics South Africa data that showed that the growth rate of electricity distribution or consumption doubled to 1% year-on-year (y/y) in the first 11 months of 2018 compared with 0.5% in the whole of 2017, should bolster KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) consumer and business confidence as the only time that electricity consumption growth was higher in recent years was in 2010 when the economy grew by 3%.
The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president in December 2017 and subsequent euphoria in financial markets was reflected in a 34 point surge in the First National Bank (FNB) / Bureau for Economic Research (BER) Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) to a record +26 in the first quarter 2018. The largest jump in the CCI previously took place in the second quarter 2004, when the CCI soared by 27 points from -7 to +20 after the announcement that South Africa would host the 2010 World Cup Soccer.
The 2017 increase in electricity consumption followed two years of declining consumption as state-owned electricity utility Eskom was unable to meet demand and had to institute rotational load-shedding. Rotational load-shedding normally means a suburb will lose up to two hours a day in a stage 1 situation when Eskom is short 1000 MW or three hours a day in a stage 2 or 2000 MW shortfall event.
In 2015 national electricity consumption fell by 1.3% and in 2016 it dropped by 1%. This meant that the total annual consumption of 229342 Gigawatt-hours (GWh)in 2017 was less than the 2007 total of 241170 GWh even though the population and the economy grew by more than 10% during this period.
The eleven months 2018 data also shows that Eskom generation declined by 0.3%, so the increase in demand was met by generation provided by Independent Power Producers (IPP).
The amount produced by IPPs has increased from only 884 GWh in December 2007 to 2,060 GWh in November 2018, when it accounted for 9.7% of total generation.
Eskom instituted load-shedding on an intermittent basis since November 29 2018 after the connection with Mozambique broke down and it lost 700 Megawatts of power imports.
There was no load shedding over the Festive Season as many factories shut down for the holiday period, but Eskom has warned that it may have to implement load shedding from January 15 onwards when the factories re-open.
Hopefully the connection with Mozambique has now been restored and urgent maintenance on aeging power plants has taken place over December, so the dire warnings of load shedding will not take place. It however does not mean that power saving should be abandoned, as the system remains constrained and coal stocks at various power stations are not as much as they should be.