South Africans experienced rolling blackouts almost every day this year, with more than 6700 hours of load shedding recorded over 335 days.
This year was worse than the 15 previous years, cumulatively, according to experts, as UPS units and other back-up power supplies such as generators became essential for residents and businesses – and the economy continues to count the costs.
Insights from the load-shedding monitoring app EskomSePush indicate that the country spent 45 days in Stage 6 load shedding and experienced 408 390 minutes without electricity this year.
According to Eskom, there were 335 days and 6 778 hours of load shedding in 2023.
“From April 1 to December 18, 2023, UCLF was approximately 33% which equates to just less than 15 500 megawatt lost capacity on average,” said Eskom.
Eskom said the estimated cost of load shedding or economic impact is at R12.60 per kilowatt-hour in 2023 rand terms.
Earlier this year, political parties and civil society organisations submitted figures to court, to motivate their successful case which would compel the government to end load shedding, which estimated the cost of load shedding to South Africa at more than R1.2trillion.
In 2022, the rolling blackouts were conservatively estimated to cost the country at least R15 billion, Cape Town Tourism last month told the “’Cape Times.”
In terms of its diesel to run the open-cycle gas turbines, Eskom said it spent “R24.4 billion total spend (Eskom: R17.1 billion and IPP: R7.3 billion)” in 2023.
According to the power utility, in 2024 things would be looking up, with the frequency and stages of load shedding expected to decline.
“The frequency, duration and stages of load shedding are expected to reduce in 2024, compared to 2023, with the return to service of the three Kusile units.
“The first synchronisation of Kusile Unit 5 is anticipated to add additional power to the grid while the generator undergoes initial testing and certification and will alleviate some of the constraints on the power system.
“Eskom has shared the generation recovery plan which seeks to increase the current base load from installed fleet. Eskom is also busy with the process of converting Ankerlig and Gourikwa to gas while at the same time starting with the additional 3 000MW of new gas,” said Eskom.
Energy expert Lungile Mashele said 2023 had been worse than the 15 previous years cumulatively for load shedding.
“This load shedding was a result of poor plant performance, increased industrial demand leading up to the winter season, a lack of quality maintenance, the loss of three units at Kusile and the delay in returning to service of Unit 1 at Koeberg.
“Given that the last two issues have been rectified, I do not anticipate that level or intensity of load shedding again. “Yes, there will definitely be load shedding in 2024, but not as severe as in 2023,” Mashele said.
Civil nuclear engineer Hugo Kruger said: “Eskom has to find a way to do maintenance and extend the lifetime of the plants. The government has been dragging its feet regarding it, but if we continue to pretend that we don’t have a coal fleet then load shedding will continue. What we need is for Eskom’s leadership to commit in law to fix the coal fleet, to overhaul it.
“If we fix only 10% of the installed capacity then load shedding will be a thing of the past. South Africa didn’t have load shedding in 2009 to 2013 and in 2016 to 2017. That’s because they fixed and maintained what was broken.”
Energy activist Peter Becker added that even in the best case scenario, 50% of Koeberg will be off-line for the next two years.
“The only way out of load shedding is for the government to stop obstruction to the renewable energy roll-out.”