Cape Town - A brutal winter is on the horizon as 2023 becomes the worst year of load shedding.
Numerous stakeholders predicted load shedding this year will far surpass the record-breaking levels experienced last year, but in just more than four months the country has already had more power cuts than last year.
South Africans are being warned to prepare as the country continues to reach record-breaking levels of load shedding, with a probability of continual Stage 6 from May to July, and an even more strained system that could force Eskom to announce Stage 8 soon, according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. (CSIR)
A senior energy researcher at the CSIR, Monique le Roux, said: “On a number of occasions this year Eskom has already technically gone beyond Stage 6.
If you consider that each 1 000 MW of load that cannot be supplied is one stage of load shedding, it is apparent we have technically already been in Stage 7, and it seems Eskom is relying heavily on other demand side management measures, like load curtailment, to avoid an official announcement of Stage 7.”
If unplanned outages are at the same levels as they currently are (19 000 MW), during next month and July, Le Roux said it was probable Eskom would need to implement Stage 8.
“A very big cold front is forecast to hit South Africa from Thursday and it is going to be interesting to see if this will lead to increased stages on load shedding beyond stage 6 – this is certainly very likely,” le Roux added.
Responding to the Cape Argus, Eskom on Thursday said that in terms of the amount of energy shed, load shedding for 2023 already exceeded that of 2022 – which was thought to be the worst load shedding ever experienced.
“The energy shed was 8116 GWh in 2022 versus 8351 GWh from January 1 until May 7, 2023,” Eskom said.
The power utility added that in 2022 there were 205 days of load shedding, and up to Sunday May 7, 2023, there have been 127 days of load shedding while in terms of hours, there was load shedding of 3 767 hours in 2022 and 2 927 hours in 2023 up to May 7.
Eskom again denied that the country had exceeded Stage 6 load-shedding and that Stage 6 was the highest stage it had implemented to date but a number of energy experts believed that Eskom’s communication being used to avoid announcing Stage 7 and 8, was done to avoid backlash and panic among the public.
“There is no ambiguity here; the instruction is issued by the system operator to the distribution network owners to carry out. Load shedding is one mechanism that is used to reduce the demand on the power system as outlined in NRS048-9.
“Another mechanism is load curtailment which is the reduction of demand by large industrial customers and different to load shedding. It is accurate to say that Eskom has reduced the demand on the power system by more than 6000 MW,” it said.
Eskom said it will be briefing the media in due course to give a comprehensive presentation on the winter outlook.
Sampson Mamphweli, head of the energy secretariat at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), added that the worst case scenario this winter was the country facing up to Stage 10 rolling blackouts and that given Eskom’s recent statistics, an imminent grid collapse should not be ruled out.
“However, this depends on how Eskom manages the grid. At stage 6 the management of the grid is already challenging. It will be worse at Stage 8 and above,” he said.
Energy analyst Ruse Moleshe added, “We have well over 6000MW, almost 7000MW of installed renewable energy capacity but it’s not helping us, because of intermittent supply, hence we have such an increase in diesel use to make up for the shortfall. It’s not sustainable… We need to accelerate efforts to procure gas and put in related infrastructure.”