Snowfall results in increased demand for electricity and could lead to more load shedding

Snowfall in KZN leads to higher demand for electricity. Picture: Rohan Benadie

Snowfall in KZN leads to higher demand for electricity. Picture: Rohan Benadie

Published Jul 12, 2023


Durban - Eskom announced earlier on Wednesday that stage six load shedding will be implemented from 2pm.

This follows the power utility’s announcement on Monday that the high demand for electricity and the slight reduction in generation capacity necessitated the implementation of higher stages of load shedding.

Energy experts agree that an increase in demand for electricity will lead to high stages of load shedding.

Eskom said on Wednesday that the Energy Availability Factor (EAF) of the Eskom plant for the month to date stands at 57.73%.

“The cold weather does drive up the demand for electricity but the cold weather experienced from yesterday [Tuesday] was forecasted and the planning to meet the demand was in place.”

Eskom added that on the morning of July 10 the demand for electricity exceeded the expected demand.

“The System Operator is obliged to carry generation reserves to cater for unforeseen events. On Tuesday morning we utilised these reserves to meet the higher than anticipated demand. Unfortunately, the prolonged high demand and the slight reduction in generation capacity necessitated the implementation of higher stages of load shedding.”

Eskom said that the demand for electricity for the rest of winter will be determined by how cold weather sets in across the country in the coming weeks and what the available generation capacity will be.

“Although less likely, given the current performance of the Eskom generation fleet, Stage 8 load shedding is still a possibility this winter. During the warmer period, Stage 3 to 4 load shedding is to be expected while colder periods may increase this. Should a cold spell coincide with multiple generator breakdowns, high stages of load shedding may be necessary for a short duration.”

Energy economist Lungile Mashele said that South Africa enjoyed a very warm start to winter.

“This week in Johannesburg, a major load centre, experienced a cold front and an ease into real winter temperatures. This will drive an increase in demand, bringing us closer to the 34GW forecast by Eskom.”

Mashele added that the reduction in load shedding that was seen was a result of lower industrial demand, less maintenance and fewer breakdowns.

Ruse Moleshe, the managing director of RUBK, an energy and infrastructure consulting and advisory company, said before this week the demand for electricity had not been as high as anticipated for winter.

“Lower temperatures result in higher demand for electricity, which requires Eskom to ramp up supply options and use more peaking or emergency options (OCGTs). More load shedding is used to prevent system challenges, and ensure that supply can meet the increased demand,” said Moleshe.

Craig Morkel, the chairperson of the Gas Economy Leadership Team at SA Oil and Gas Alliance (Saoga) said that SA can expect more load shedding if the cold weather continues or becomes worse.

“Eskom has reduced its dependence on its diesel-fuelled Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT) to only peak demand times of day. The result of this reduced use of the OCGT fleet is that there is now a greater shortfall in generation capacity between daily peak demand periods,” he said.

Morkel added that there is generally a higher demand for electricity whenever temperatures drop, including when it is snowing.

“This increased demand therefore requires increased electricity supply from all generation units available to Eskom and a few municipalities, such as the City of Cape Town’s OCGTs at Roggebaai and Athlone, and its Steenbras hydro-electric pumped-storage peaking power stations,” he said.