Nine days without load shedding due to less demand, say experts

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said hard work had resulted in load shedding being suspended.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said hard work had resulted in load shedding being suspended.

Published Apr 5, 2024


Energy experts have cautioned consumers against celebrating the nine days the country has gone without load shedding, saying this is a result of lower demand over the Easter weekend rather than an improvement in the Energy Availability Factor (EAF).

The EAF refers to the percentage of available power that is being generated by the power utility.

Energy expert Clyde Mallinson said there had been reduced demand over the Easter period.

“This has resulted in no load shedding in the past days. There has been a slight improvement in the coal fleet but I wouldn’t say that is cause for celebration, as Eskom still needs to look at ways to add more capacity to the grid.”

Mallinson said there had also been a reduction in the amount of planned maintenance.

“It’s normal for Eskom to cool down on planned maintenance during this time of the year as we are heading into the winter months and that does result in less load shedding.

“Without planned maintenance there is at least 5000MW available and that does make a difference. The other thing is that if you look at the Christmas holiday period annually and the Easter weekend there is normally a huge drop in the demand for electricity.”

He said Eskom’s new budget and tariff increase had also kicked in on April 1.

“This could have an impact on reducing load shedding. We are not saying that they are already using this budget to burn diesel but we know it’s there if they need to use it.

“The crucial thing for Eskom is that during this period where there is no load shedding we need to look at ways to get solar and wind power going to add more capacity to the grid as this will present a more permanent solution to the load shedding crisis.”

Energy expert Professor Wikus van Niekerk of Stellenbosch University agreed that less demand had resulted in the suspension of load shedding.

“We’ve had about nine days where there was no load shedding. However, there were four days that were part of a long weekend with significantly less demand.”

However, he feels that the system remains fragile.

“I don’t think there has been a significant improvement in the Energy Availability Factor. The system is still not reliable enough, and even with the election coming I don’t think we would be able to suspend load shedding for a long period of time.”

Ruse Moleshe, managing director of RUBK, an energy and infrastructure consulting and advisory company, said Eskom currently had adequate supply to meet end-user demand.

“They anticipate moderate electricity demand, which is typical during weekends. The forecast of no load shedding is based on relatively better-managed unexpected breakdowns, moderate/low demand and adequate back-up resources to deal with emergencies or peak demand.”

Moleshe said any changes in demand and/or supply interruption could change that picture.

“The Energy Availability Factor is approximately 57.1%. It was about 54.8% in March and 51% and 52% in January and February respectively.

“Eskom performance has improved, especially given the increase in planned maintenance. This is partly attributed to the return to service of significant capacity from plants such as Kusile (three units) and a reduction in unplanned maintenance/plant breakdowns.”

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, while addressing the business sector in the Eastern Cape on Wednesday, said hard work had resulted in load shedding being suspended.

“We continue to see this improvement as more and more units are coming back online. For energy security and resilience, we need more generation capacity and that needs to come from outside Eskom.”

Meanwhile eThekwini Municipality, which had halted load shedding after several areas suffered extended power outages amid a municipal strike, has said the scheduled power cuts would resume when Eskom implemented load shedding.

It said the backlog of outages had been dealt with.

The Mercury