Energy experts say the suspension of load shedding is a temporary reprieve as it is a result of lower demand due to factories and big industrial companies closing for the holidays.
They say the grid remains fragile and a return to normal stages of load shedding can be expected in the new year. Independent energy economist Lungile Mashele said that demand for energy is low at the moment.
“It had averaged 23500MW this long weekend – which is indicative of industry shutdowns and people going away for Christmas.”
Mashele said she does not believe that Eskom has turned the corner on performance or energy availability.
“It’s just the December lull because of industry shutdowns and long weekend travels. Weather also plays a role and will be reflected in the demand figures. One can expect a return to load shedding if these fundamentals change.”
Mashele said she does expect load shedding to remain suspended for the remainder of the festive season.
“We can definitely expect load shedding well into 2024. For the rest of 2023, perhaps load shedding will be suspended again over the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays. For the last two consecutive years we have had load shedding on New Year’s Eve.”
Ruse Moleshe, the managing director of RUBK, an energy and infrastructure consulting and advisory company, said the return of units at the Kusile power station had helped.
“The return of Kusile power station has helped with generation capacity and is one of the reasons for the suspension of load shedding. However, the main reason is the reduction in demand due to the closure of major factories, industrial companies and mining companies.
“If there are any major changes we will be straight back to load shedding.”
Moleshe said the system remained fragile. “Eskom’s performance has not improved and we should expect a return to load shedding in the future.
“The only way that we can see an end to load shedding is if Eskom is able to secure additional generation capacity to the grid.
“Unfortunately that has not happened yet, so we can expect load shedding to continue.”
Professor Wikus van Niekerk, Dean of Engineering at Stellenbosch University, said the main reason for the easing in blackouts is the lower demand for electricity because of the annual holiday shutdown at businesses and factories.
“Planned Eskom outages are less as they also plan not to do maintenance over the festive season.”
Van Niekerk said it was difficult to predict if Eskom could turn the corner on load shedding.
“It really depends on Eskom keeping the power stations that are running on.
If they are able to last it could mean that Eskom has turned the corner on load shedding. At this time it is difficult to predict.”
Van Niekerk added that there’s a good chance that load shedding will remain suspended for the rest of the festive season.
“For the festive season we should be okay unless something breaks.
“For 2024, load shedding will be back by the end of January as demand ramps up. Remember, the other Koeberg unit is now switched off until after the winter. We’re still waiting for Medupi 4 to come back on and the rest remain fragile.”
David Lipschitz, an energy resilience expert and author of the book The Last Blackout, said he agrees that less demand for electricity during the holidays has led to less load shedding.
“Most workers are on leave and we also have schools closed, and those are some of the reasons that load shedding has been suspended.
“Although this is good news, we must remain concerned about load shedding affecting businesses. Already we see ArcelorMittal South Africa possibly retrenching 3 500 workers. Load shedding is one of the factors that has impacted operations.”