Energy experts are warning South Africans they should prepare themselves for the worst, with regular stage 6 load-shedding and 10-hour daily blackouts.
In December, Eskom implemented stage 6 load-shedding for the first time – which means the power utility needed to shed approximately 6,000MW.
In practical terms its means that South African citizens and businesses experience longer and more frequent power cuts.
Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promises to rebuild and strengthen Eskom, experts remain sceptical as these promises are nothing new.
Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza’s resignation on Friday is another sign that the government has failed to resolve the problems at the embattled power utility.
Energy availability factor decline
EE Business Intelligence MD Chris Yelland said Eskom’s declining energy availability factor (EAF) is a cause for serious concern.
The energy availability factor shows the percentage of Eskom’s generation capacity which is available, taking into account planned maintenance and unplanned breakdowns.
Yelland said the EAF data for 2019 paints a grim picture of ageing, under-maintained, and stressed power plants.
“The EAF for the full 2019 calendar year has hit a new record low of 67%, compared to the EAF of 72% for the 2018 calendar year,” said Yelland.
He added that the EAF for Week 50 and Week 51 of 2019 also hit record all-time lows of 59.7% and 58.0% respectively.
Energy expert Lungile Mashele highlighted that “this week we hit an excess of 15,000MW, which was out for unplanned maintenance. This has never happened in Eskom’s 96-year history”.
More blackouts to follow
Energy advisor Ted Blom has said Eskom suffers many breakdowns caused by poor coal quality and a lack of maintenance, which is set to continue.
He added that the situation is made worse by the fact Eskom does not have enough money to conduct proper maintenance on its power plants.
Nu-Energy Developments MD Des Muller told The Star that “stage 6 may well be a common occurrence for the foreseeable future”.
This, Muller said, was a result of a lack of effective planning and Eskom’s poor execution on its capacity expansion.
Professor Hartmut Winkler from the department of physics at the University of Johannesburg told The Star that the power situation will “get far worse before it gets better”.
“Permanent stage 2 load-shedding, occasionally rising to stage 4 or even stage 6, is not unthinkable in the current state of affairs,” he said.
While Eskom continues to implement load-shedding, businesses are demanding to know why heavy regulations around independent power producers have not been lifted.
A report in the City Press stated that a recent emergency proposal by the government to buy 3,000MW of power will amount to nothing more than “an exchange of ideas” to prepare a report for the department of energy.
It stated that the department held an information session this week on purchasing additional capacity, to which 200 businesspeople attended with the hope of addressing the power crisis. However, no immediate plans to address power supply issues were actioned.
Frustrated industry insiders also wanted to why the government has not lifted limitations on independent power producers. According to the report, this could unlock around 2,500MW of power for South Africa almost immediately.