Durban - South Africa must brace for what could be the worst bout of load shedding in Eskom’s 97-year history in 2021, a leading energy analyst has warned.
Energy analyst Ted Blom, addressing a Free Market Foundation webinar this week, said the “corruption, incompetence and ineptitude” which had plagued Eskom since the early 2000s had led to the current state of disrepair of the power utility and that according to his detailed analysis of the SOE’s own official power generation and maintenance data, Stage 5 to 8 load shedding could be on the cards this year.
He pleaded with Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe to allow private power producers to compete effectively with Eskom as the solution to the country’s energy crisis. Eskom implemented stage two load shedding last Thursday but suspended it from 11pm on Monday, saying that generation capacity had improved.
Blom said Eskom was understating load shedding, as for every 1 000 megawatts of load shedding in Stage 1, 2 000 megawatts had been shed from its industrial VLS (voluntary load shedding) clients. Stage 8 load shedding would mean that the utility needed to cut 8 000MW from the system, which would result in three four-hour long power outages on scheduled days.
“I will not be surprised that between now and the end of winter we will experience level six load shedding and even level eight and above. It is a nightmare. It is not good for industry. These are facts Eskom has put on the table,” he said.
Blom said when Eskom hit outages of 11 000 megawatts, load shedding kicked in and at 13 000MW the system experienced “severe strain”.
He said Eskom had historically accounted for planned maintenance outages of about 5 000MW, while unplanned outages were tabled as an essentially random number estimated by Eskom at 12 000MW.
He said Eskom's data forecast a consistent total outage of above 20 000MW until April 2021.
He said there was a more than 50% likelihood of level six load shedding, while level eight load shedding was “very likely to be achieved intermittently”.
He said the 2021 outlook forecast “the worst performance” by Eskom in its almost 100 years of existence.
Blom urged the government to “immediately open up the playing fields” to independent power producers and not just to renewable energy producers as the latter contributed a mere 1.5% of global energy output.
“We need to open up the field, let the private sector satisfy the demand because the profit umbrella and tariff umbrella at Eskom is so high, so competitors could come in at a quarter of what Eskom is charging,” he said.
Responding to Blom’s concerns Eskom said in a statement that it had to take capacity offline for maintenance, which meant the risk of load shedding remained “elevated” especially during summer, until the maintenance has been completed.
“When planning for generation maintenance outages, Eskom takes a scenario-based planning approach in order to manage the uncertainty and unreliability that is being experienced with the generation fleet.
’’We do not plan to load shed in the base scenario, however, there are times when the unplanned breakdowns of generating units exceed the planning assumption and this forces us into load shedding,” Eskom said
Eskom said that approximately 5 500MW of Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) and pumped storage generation capacity, had been included in the scenario planning.
“Over-use of these generation resources, for an extended period of time, depletes the fuel at these power stations which then prevents this capacity from supplying the demand.
’’While every effort is made not to load shed, and only when absolutely necessary, to load shed at Stage 4 or below, the possibility does exist that higher stages of load shedding could be required if there are numerous, simultaneous breakdowns of generating units and depleted fuel levels at the OCGT and pumped storage power stations,” Eskom said.
“In the planning scenarios considered, at an unplanned unavailability of up to 14 000 MW of capacity, up to Stage 3 load shedding is possible. However, if this coincides with depleted fuel at pumped storage and OCGT power stations, higher stages of load shedding is possible.”
Eskom said it had entered into 27 power purchase agreements (PPA) with renewable energy independent power producers – totalling 2 305MW, in April 2018.
“To date, 13 of those projects have achieved commercial operation - a total installed capacity of 1 048MW. It must be noted that renewable energy has a send-out capability the third of installed capacity," Eskom said.
Eskom said the remainder of the projects were scheduled to enter commercial operation during 2021.