Eskom already beyond its worst-case scenario for load shedding: report
Staff Writer29 May 2022
Power utility Eskom has already exceeded its worst-case scenario for load shedding in South Africa, with warnings that worse is still to come, the City Press reports.
At the group’s quarterly media briefing in March, Eskom presented three scenarios for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. These were:
The base scenario of 10,000MW to 12,000MW of generating capacity being unavailable;
A second scenario of 12,000MW to 13,500MW being offline and;
The worst-case scenario of 13,500MW to 15,000MW going down.
In the worst-case scenario presented by the power company, South Africa would experience 295 days of load shedding over the period. In May, it projected 22 days of load shedding, not going beyond stage 2.
The reality, however, is that May has seen 24 days of load shedding as of Friday (27 May), with load shedding hitting as high as stage 4.
According to the City Press, Eskom’s own projections point to even more outages in the coming months, with stage 3 or stage 4 load shedding anticipated in September.
The company is reportedly hosting a ‘crisis summit’ in June, where it plans to meet with experts and international investors to look for a way to mitigate the rolling blackouts. A plan is expected to reach the government by August, the paper said.
Stage 8 and beyond
While Eskom is in its stated worst-case scenario, and even exceeding it, chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer did present an absolute worst-case at the same March briefing.
To keep Eskom’s systems running, Oberholzer said that the utility was burning through millions of litres of diesel a day. Should the country run out of diesel reserves due to funding issues or the Russia and Ukraine invasion, then a worst-case scenario could see an additional six stages of load shedding introduced.
Eskom’s current load shedding schedules run-up to stage 8, which allows for 8,000MW to be pulled off the grid, resulting in 12 hours of the day being spent in darkness – though this varies according to the region and municipal schedule.
An additional six stages on current load shedding levels would point to as much as stage 10 load shedding, which is uncharted territory.
Beyond stage 8, the system operator will instruct how many megawatts needs to be shed per province, Oberholzer said. However, he added that contingencies are in place to avoid load shedding stages ever reaching that high.
Several economists and energy experts have warned that stage 8 load shedding is a possibility that cannot be ruled out, given the current state of affairs.
Independent energy analyst Mike Rossouw warned that the country could soon see stage 8 load shedding, with power station breakdowns occurring so frequently that Eskom is unable to predict energy availability for a few hours ahead.
Another energy analyst, professor Sampson Mamphweli, said that demand is outstripping supply at levels that even Eskom did not anticipate, making the system unpredictable. He said that stage 8 was a possibility.
On top of generation issues due to failing systems and equipment breakdowns, Eskom also has to contend with criminal elements such as cable theft and, lately, increased instances of sabotage from within the company.
Eskom has implemented stage 2 load shedding during evening peak hours for just over two weeks straight, pushing up to as high as stage 4.