S.Africa: Electricity hits new lows… it’s getting freaky: Eskom load-shedding hit stage 7, say economists
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[We are going down, and it's just getting worse. Jan]
Eskom “technically” implemented stage 7 load-shedding at one point last week, according to the Bureau for Economic Research’s (BER’s) latest weekly review.
The BER argues Eskom’s power cuts reached this level if you account for the load curtailment against specific business users.
Load curtailment is a mechanism through which Eskom asks some of its most demanding power users to reduce electricity consumption in periods of low electricity availability.
Some of these customers — which typically include mines and factories — could reduce their power use by up to 20%.
Peak demand statistics shared by Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha showed the utility had used this mechanism during one evening peak last week.
At the country’s electricity evening demand peak around 19:38 on Wednesday, 7 December 2022, Eskom shed 447MW through “interruptible load supply”, another word for load curtailment.
At the same time, it was shedding 6,477MW through stage 6 load-shedding to general electricity users.
Combined, the electricity shed reached 6,894MW —106MW shy of stage 7 load-shedding.
This amount was possibly higher at some point during the day, as load curtailment customers typically have lower usage in the evenings.
Koeberg Unit delay avoids stage 7 for general users
Eskom appeared to narrowly avoid stage 7 power cuts for general electricity users last week after it postponed the shutdown of Koeberg Unit 1 by three days — from Wednesday, 7 December to Saturday, 10 December 2022.
That came after energy analyst Ted Blom warned that taking the unit offline for a prolonged maintenance outage as planned would increase load-shedding from stage 6 to stage 7 unless Eskom was able to reduce breakdowns in other parts of its generating fleet.
That would have been the highest stage of load-shedding ever implemented at a national level.
Eskom’s fleet had among its lowest generating capacity on record last week, leading to a fluctuating schedule of stage 6 and stage 5 load-shedding.
But it appeared to be recovering heading into the weekend, with a statement announcing it would drop the rotational power cuts to stage 4 on Saturday, and stage 2 on Sunday, 11 December 2022.
However, by early Saturday afternoon, it had lost three more generating units and experienced “unusually” high demand.
With the shutdown of Koeberg Unit 1 in the morning, this necessitated an increase to stage 5 load-shedding until further notice.
The BER said that the country’s economic performance during the third quarter has remained fairly resilient despite the intense load-shedding.
However, it warned that the real impact would only be seen in the coming months, as the effects of the “reopening” boost to the economy and other normalisation from the second quarter began to fade.
It also raised concern over delays in new generating capacity that was supposed to be added to the grid as part of the latest round of private power projects in the IPP programme.
“Worryingly for the longer-term outlook, renewable projects of only 860MW (potentially 1000MW) have been advanced to preferred-bidder status following the last bid window,” BER said.
“The round would have allowed for about five times the amount of megawatts to be allocated.”
“Furthermore, not a single wind power project has been appointed, despite a significant number of bids.”
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