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Load shedding looms this week, and for at least two

As Eskom warned the nation on Wednesday that the power system was “severely constrained,” the Council for Industrial Research’s (CSIR) has warned that load shedding is here to stay, at least for the next two to three years

Eskom said that the return to service of five generation units has been delayed, while two others have tripped.

According to the CSIR, the future duration and severity of load shedding was dependent on the decisions taken by industry role players, and according to the report, titled Setting up for the 2020s: Addressing South Africa’s electricity crisis and getting ready for the next decade, the cost of load shedding to the economy is as high as R338 billion over the past 10 years.

“Load shedding is expected to continue, at least for two to three years, and this is dependent on the key actions and decisions that are taken by various industry custodians as well as stakeholders…” Jarrad Wright, CSIR principal engineer, said on Wednesday.

Wright, who co-authored the report with Joanne Calitz, senior engineer, said their findings indicate that South Africa experienced 530 hours of load shedding, amounting to 1,352GWh, in 2019.

“South Africa had the worst load shedding in recorded history in 2019, equaling 1,352 GwH.

“In December 2019 we had up to stage six load-shedding which we have not seen before. There has been increased load-shedding, relative to 2019, only marginally so far, but half way through this year we actually had more than we had in 2019,” he said on Wednesday.

He said with the research, they wanted to understand how long load shedding would last, the expected intensity and duration but that more importantly, what options were available or what solutions were there to solve the electricity crisis.

Wright said an urgent response to this electricity crisis was necessary, saying there was a need to ensure that short-term systems in place put the country on a path to long-term adequacy in a decade.

Though the CSIR Energy Centre had already published research earlier this year, Wright said it was now more relevant in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the electricity demand.

He said this was because households, businesses, funders, and all spheres of government were now looking for solutions to ensure adequate electricity supply for a successful economic recovery.

“Are we in an electricity crisis? Indeed we are, as the president (Cyril Ramaphosa) have said…it is more urgent now as we start hearing more and more about post Covid-19 economic recovery plan…,” Wright said.

He said that some of immediate solutions recommended in the study were ensuring that generation capacity currently under construction – the Medupi and Kusile powers stations as well as Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (“REIPPP) – were delivered as planned.

The study further recommends the recovery of Eskom’s fleet Energy Availability Factor (EAF) to realistic levels while ensuring value for money relative to alternatives, and implementing the three steps concurrently and with urgency.

These are driving customer response at scale, addressing remaining capacity gap immediately to ensure capacity was online when needed, continued implementation of IRP 2019 as an immediate focus to ensure sufficient lead time for procurement processes and technology specific lead times.

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