Durban - While consumers were warned to brace for a bleak winter amid higher load-shedding stages, Eskom has recently offered some respite from the power cuts.
Energy experts have attributed the lower stages of load shedding to reduced demand for electricity and Eskom burning more diesel.
Ruse Moleshe, the managing director of RUBK, an energy and infrastructure consulting and advisory company, said that due to the constrained system, Eskom was burning more diesel.
“Open Cycle Gas Turbines are designed to meet peak demand and for emergencies, but system constraints have forced Eskom to utilise them much more than they are supposed to.
“The more Eskom’s system performance improves, the less diesel is required. However, there has been a marked improvement in diesel use for June 2023 relative to June 2022.”
Moleshe added that Eskom recently reported that it had reached an energy availability factor (EAF) of 60% – which refers to the percentage of power that can be generated.
“The Eskom board has set further targets of an improved EAF of 65% (by March 31, 2024) and 70% (by March 31, 2025).
“The recent increase can be attributed to a reduction in unplanned outages as well as planned maintenance (it is standard practice to do more planned maintenance in summer and less in winter to meet the high winter demand).
“Another reason for the improved performance is demand, which has remained relatively low (below 30 000MW). Typical winter electricity demand is above 30 000MW. If the weather conditions change, we are likely to see higher demand.”
Moleshe added that the Mozambique deal that would see South Africa receiving 100MW of power was welcome.
“Any additional power that contributes to additional supply of electricity in the system makes a difference.
“However, the 600MW that is anticipated to be available in six months will be much more significant and make a more meaningful impact.”
David Lipschitz, an energy resilience expert and author of the book The Last Blackout, said he believed that alternative energy sources were contributing to the lower stages, but more diesel was also being used.
“Apparently our wind turbines are producing 2 to 3GW, reducing load shedding by two to three stages. We are burning more diesel.”
He added that he did not think the EAF had significantly improved.
Craig Morkel, the chairperson of the Gas Economy Leadership Team at Saoga (SA Oil & Gas Alliance), agreed that Eskom was burning more diesel.
“Eskom is on record as having said its diesel spend budget for the year 2022/23 was depleted in December 2022/January 2023.
“Hence it requested a deviation to exceed its diesel budget. Also, it has budgeted for another R30 billion on diesel for the financial year 2023/24.”
Morkel said the EAF was currently estimated at an average of 62%, but intermittent peaks and dips were to be expected due to planned and unplanned maintenance shutdowns.