DURBAN - On Wednesday, October 27, 2021, at 11:04, Eskom announced that:
“Regretfully Stage 4 load shedding will be implemented from 12:00 on Wednesday until 05.00 on Friday. Thereafter Stage 2 load shedding will continue as previously communicated until 05.00 on Saturday”.
The total plant breakdowns at the time of the announcement amounted to 14 957 MW, while planned maintenance was 5 302 MW. Over 41% of the 48 600 MW of Eskom’s installed capacity was unavailable to meet the peak demand of under 30 000 MW.
The system’s operator had no choice but to implement stage 4 load shedding within an hour’s notice period to stabilise the power grid. Without this intervention by the system’s operator, the electricity grid would have collapsed.
Stage 4 load shedding meant that at least 4000 MW of electricity demand needed to be shed. Consumers were expected to be shed up to 12 times over a four-day period for two hours at a time or 12 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.
On Thursday, October 28, 2021, Eskom again announced that Stage 4 of load shedding would be reduced to stage 3 from 21.00 on Thursday, October 28, 2021, until 05:00 on Friday, 29 October 2021. Effectively, the South African economy was subjected to 33 hours of Stage 4 load shedding on short notice, and no one, including Eskom, saw it coming. The amount of unserved energy from 12.00 on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, until 21.00 on Thursday, October 28, 2021, was 132 GWh.
At 13.49 on Thursday, October 28, 2021, I published on my Twitter account that the cost of Stage 4 load shedding to the economy in the preceding 24 hours was R8 billion, based on the cost of unserved energy (COUE) of R85 per kilowatt-hour. On the same Twitter account, I also published the manuscript showing my calculations. At least 352 000 people saw this publication, and over 73 000 people interacted with it. These included two senior colleagues at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and most importantly, Dr Ulrich Minnaar from Eskom.
I invited my colleagues in the NSBE to write a paper in response to my publication. I will respond to it.
I referenced a report titled the: “Cost of Unserved Energy Update” as a source for my COUE of R85 per kilowatt-hour. The report was written by Dr Ulrich Minnaar. The report number is RTD/CONS/2018/1952860”. On page 14 of this report, Dr Ulrich Minnaar writes:
“The Total Economic COUE for 2016 is R85.35 /kWh. This number can be interpreted as the weighted average total economic production lost that can be expected as a result of manifold, short duration, unplanned power outages across the country”.
The interpretation of the COUE as the “weighted average total economic production lost that can be expected as a result of manifold, short duration, unplanned power outages across the country” is the correct interpretation.
The Stage 4 load shedding of 12.00 on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, until 21.00 on Thursday, October 28, 2021, that resulted in the unserved energy of 132 GWh was a result of various, short duration and unplanned power outages across the country. The cost of these short duration and unplanned power outages to the economy, based on Dr Ulrich Minnaar’s report of 2018, is R8 billion. This report was approved by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), and it can be found on its website.
In its report titled, “Setting up for the 2020s: Addressing South Africa’s electricity crisis and getting ready for the next decade”, written by Dr Jarrad G. Wright and Joane Calitz, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) adopts the same interpretation given in the report of 2018 by Dr Ulrich Minnaar with reference, RTD/CONS/2018/1952860.
On page 12 of the CSIR report, Dr Jarrad G. Wright and Joane Calitz writes:
“Load shedding is assumed to have taken place for the full hours in which it was implemented. Practically, load shedding (and the Stage) may occasionally change/end during a particular hour; Total GWh are calculated assuming Stage 1 = 1 000 MW, Stage 2 = 2 000 MW, Stage 3 = 3 000 MW, Stage 4 = 4 000 MW, Stage 5 = 5 000 MW, Stage 6 = 6 000 MW; Cost to the economy of load shedding is estimated using COUE (cost of unserved energy) = 87.50 R/kwh.”
CSIR is correct that the cost to the economy of load shedding should be estimated using the cost of unserved energy. NERSA approved the figure for the COUE of 87.50 R/kwh. Using the NERSA approved COUE, the cost to the economy of stage 4 load shedding of 12.00 on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, until 21.00 on Thursday, October 28, 2021, is R11 billion.
This is debilitating to an economy that is already ravaged by the impact of Covid-19. It is the worst-ever in the documented history of Eskom.
In his response to my manuscript on Twitter, Dr Ulrich Minnaar writes:
“Using the COUE numbers “as is” would overestimate both direct and indirect impact (of load shedding) on the economy. Strictly speaking, the total economic impact numbers, including indirect impact, are not appropriate for load shedding. The numbers are based on the assumption of unplanned interruptions, while load shedding is planned and customers are forewarned, which changes their behaviour”.
Notwithstanding the robustness of his report that is already approved by NERSA, Dr Ulrich Minnaar now wants South Africans to accept his revisionist approach that says that stage 4 load shedding of 12.00 on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, until 21.00 on Thursday, October 28, 2021, was not the “result of manifold, short duration, unplanned power outages across the country” but it was scheduled, and customers were forewarned.
If Dr Ulrich Minnaar’s submissions are to be believed, then it would mean Eskom planned stage 4 of load shedding to be in the week of the local government elections and coincide with the first day of the matric exams. It is not probable that Eskom would make such arrangements. This type of planning would amount to sabotage.
The R11 billion impact of load shedding on the economy is an embarrassment to Dr Ulrich Minnaar and Eskom. There is a serious attempt to hide the real impact of load shedding on the economy. The media is behind it.
Stage 4 of load shedding for uninterrupted 33 hours in one week is a sign that load shedding has reached unprecedented proportions on an economy that is already broken. What I found interesting, though, is the bias of journalists and media houses in the way in which they report on load shedding events.
On Friday, October 28, 2021, Financial Mail ran with the headline: “A bad week for Matshela Koko”. They are simply telling South Africans that Matshela Koko is responsible for the load shedding events. They want Matshela Koko to be the face of the current poor performance at Eskom.
Financial Mail does not want the public to think that this was: “A bad week for Andre de Ruyter”. Andre de Ruyter is supposedly washed in the blood of the lamb, and he is whiter than the snow. He is portrayed as pure in the eyes of the public.
Similarly, News24, as part of its Eskom Files series, published a chain of articles alleging that Eskom's turnaround under Matshela Koko’s tenure may have been the result of the manipulation of key metrics. According to News24, this “shows why Eskom, despite spending more money than ever (on maintenance), is still not able to prevent load shedding”.
Once again, Andre de Ruyter is portrayed as whiter than the snow. News24 remains oblivious that this was “A bad week for Andre de Ruyter”. Their biggest objective is to make Matshela Koko the face of load shedding.
What I do know is that the truth remains the truth, even if no one believes it. A lie is a lie, even if everyone believes it. It is for this reason that I leave you with a quote from Dr Pali Lehohla, the former Statistician-General of South Africa:
“Those of us who know nothing about electricity but know a lot about data and statistics can confirm that the graphs attest to a consistently symmetrical pattern of time series data during Koko's time (at Eskom). It is of late that the graphs show an asymmetrical pattern which is breaking the time series rhythm and suggesting that someone is really seriously cooking the books”.
I leave you, the reader, to be the judge.
Matshela Koko is Eskom’s former interim group chief executive