Eskom’s power generation system is in serious trouble, despite the power utility only promising three days of load-shedding during winter.
South Africa entered its fifth consecutive day of load-shedding on Wednesday, with stage 2 load-shedding being implemented from Friday 10 July.
This is despite Eskom’s previous prediction that there would most likely be only three days of stage 1 load-shedding over the winter season in South Africa.
Projections such as the one above from Eskom assured South Africans that the risk of extended load-shedding was relatively low, which meant the sudden return of stage 2 load-shedding was a surprise to most citizens.
The company attributed the most recent rolling blackouts to unplanned breakdowns at a number of its power stations and problems bringing power generation units back online.
Speaking to MyBroadband, energy expert Ted Blom argued that Eskom is unprepared for returning its infrastructure to full operation.
“The current load-shedding when much of South Africa is still in lockdown is evidence that Eskom is ill-prepared for the expected pick-up when lockdown ends,” Blom said.
“This level of load-shedding whilst the economy is on ‘idle’ is really bad news.”
“Candy coating” load-shedding predictions
Eskom previously rejected predictions that load-shedding would return in force, stating that South Africans should expect only three days of stage 1 load-shedding during winter.
The power utility previously told MyBroadband that there was an 80% chance of only three days of load-shedding occurring over the winter season.
It said it had made progress on the maintenance of its power stations, which would improve the reliability of the national power grid.
Stage 2 load-shedding has now been implemented for a total of five consecutive days, an event which Blom argues shows Eskom drastically misjudged its situation.
“With hindsight, it is now clear that Eskom was ‘candy coating’ their precarious situation to curry favour with their political masters in Parliament,” Blom said.
“It is clear that inadequate maintenance was done during lockdown – as is evidenced by the consequent blackouts.”
No more power than during stage 6 load-shedding
Blom previously predicted that South Africa would face what is possibly the worst load-shedding it has ever seen as demand returned after the national lockdown, and he stands by this projection.
“It seems to me that my projection that Eskom is possibly in its worst shape ever technically and financially is probably appropriate, despite hefty denials from Eskom,” Blom said. “The facts speak for themselves.”
Blom said the best recourse would be allowing South Africans to source their own power generation capabilities where they can afford to.
Speaker to Reuters, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said that it is impossible to predict which infrastructure would fail on a given day.
“The reality is we don’t know which of the coal units are going to fail on any given day, that is true for both the old and the new units,” Mantshantsha told the publication.
“Once this bout of load-shedding is over, it would be naive to think we are done with load-shedding.”
“We don’t have a single extra megawatt since we implemented stage 6 load-shedding during summer,” he said.
MyBroadband asked Eskom for comment on the misalignment of its previous projections and the return of stage 2 load-shedding, but the power utility said it would not immediately be able to source the data required to address this query.