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2020 could be worst year yet for load shedding, CSIR

Researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have said that 2020 is shaping up to be worse than 2019 in terms of load shedding, unless key decisions are made to stem the country’s ongoing energy crisis.

This is despite initial hopes that the early phase of the country’s Covid-19 lockdown might grant the beleaguered state-owned power utility a reprieve – and despite Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter expressing a hope, in January, that load shedding might be limited to just three days over the winter period.

Power cuts commenced on Thursday morning at 08.00am due to an increase in generation unit breakdowns.

CSIR researchers Jarrad Wright and Joanne Calitz were speaking on Wednesday afternoon during a webinar on the electricity crisis and scenarios for the next five years, organised by non-profit GreenCape.

GreenCape, which is backed by the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town, says on its website that one of its aims is to assist local, provincial and national government in building a “resilient green economy”.

Wright, a power and energy specialist, said SA had experienced its worst year of load shedding on record in 2019, with 1352 GW/h of cuts over 530 hours. This included the unprecedented implementation of stage 6 load shedding, with a significant impact on the economy.

He said load shedding for 2020 was projected to reach 1383 GW hours. The lion’s share of the rolling blackouts will likely to be implemented at stage 2.

“In terms of intensity, 2020 is now the most intensive load shedding year,” Wright said.

Wright notes the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan indicated a shortage of energy supply until planned new-build capacity comes online.

By 2022, the energy shortfall is expected to reach 4500 GW/h, at a cost of R60 billion to R120 billion to the economy.

Wright warned that load shedding is expected to continue for two or three more years, depending on whether key decisions were made to address the country’s ongoing energy troubles.

Not just about demand

And while the country had a brief respite from load shedding during the initial stages of lockdown, Wright warned that a sudden reduction in demand brought its own set of challenges.

“Eskom’s demand projections were in the order of 33GW at peak. As level 5 peaked, the demand fell down. It went all the way down to 13.5GW.

“It sounds like a good thing, but your supply side is not necessarily flexible enough to turn down sufficiently, so there are challenges there.”

Agility would also be required on Eskom’s part to respond to possible long-term changes in working patterns.

“Towards the end of level 5, there was a shift, and there was a continued change in demand patterns at level 4. People working in offices for various industries continued to work from home. If you look at the future of work, this is what the demand profile may start to look like in the future,” he said.

According to Wright, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy should accelerate the Risk Mitigation Power Procurement Program process to address remaining capacity and energy gaps and ensure additional capacity can come online as soon as possible.

He said Ministerial Determinations for all technologies in the 2019 IRP would allow an adequate power system by the mid-2020s, if planned new-build capacity comes online.

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