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Eskom load-shedding here to stay for the next 5 years

South Africa could be stuck with load-shedding until at least 2025 due to Eskom’s continued problems with generation capacity and inability to properly maintain its infrastructure.

This is according to energy expert Ted Blom, who told MyBroadband that he concurs with the recent findings published by the CSIR regarding the outlook for the power utility.

The CSIR recently published a presentation which said South Africans should not only expect load-shedding to continue over the next three years but added that it is expected to get significantly worse.

According to the updated Energy Availability Factor (EAF) and demand forecast at which the CSIR researchers arrived, South Africa should expect over 4,500GWh of load-shedding in 2022, compared to the 1,352GWh the country suffered in 2019.

2019 saw the worst power cuts the country had ever experienced, with the country at one point reaching stage 6 load-shedding.

Blom said that the statement that load-shedding would continue for the next three years was correct, adding that his own projection posited that the national rolling blackouts would last even longer.

“My scenario extends to load-shedding for at least five years after they have signed on the opening of new coal mines to feed the current coal fleet,” Blom said.

However, he said this would change if Eskom decided to start importing extra power from power barges or new power islands.

He expects load-shedding to get worse over the next year as there are still “turf wars” and corruption taking place inside Eskom, resulting in inadequate maintenance and major shortfalls in the quality of the maintenance.

“They also do not have adequate funding available because they are carrying at least 20,000 extra staff on the payroll,” Blom said.

Flawed reliability maintenance

Eskom has previously stated that it has begun its long-term reliability maintenance programme, which will see it conduct more extensive maintenance on the existing electricity infrastructure to improve reliability going forward.

Blom, however, said this was a “pipedream”, stating that Eskom did not commence this maintenance at the start of the lockdown, and it has been regularly deferred.

Other issues with long-term reliability maintenance include a lack of funding and spare capacity, which would enable the power utility to take units out of service to be refurbished or reconditioned.

“They currently have next to zero spare capacity as they are burning the emergency and very expensive OCGT’s daily to make up for shortfalls,” Blom said.

“I doubt that Eskom has the requisite skillset in-house to drive such a programme, and without an appropriate skillset, Eskom is embarking on a disastrous path akin to that of Medupi and Kusile, with gross overruns on budgets and duration, extreme wastage, and corruption possibilities.”

MyBroadband asked Eskom for comment on the comments made by Blom but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Stage 2 load-shedding

Eskom announced on Tuesday 18 August that stage 2 load-shedding had been implemented nationwide, with a possibility of escalation if its power shortages worsened.

“Yesterday, six generators were returned to service at Medupi, Tutuka, Kenal, Majuba, and Grootvlei power stations,” Eskom said.

“The breakdown of four units overnight and this morning at Medupi, Duvha, Majuba, and Lethabo power stations, as well as a delay in the expected return to service of a unit at Medupi has resulted in the power system being constrained,” the power utility said.

Eskom added that any further deterioration in the generation performance could result in the load-shedding level being escalated at short notice.

This is due to Eskom’s “unreliable and volatile” aged generation infrastructure, and this constrained power system is expected to persist for the rest of the week, particularly as the cold front hits, the power utility said.

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