South Africa could experience its worst load-shedding in history unless Eskom takes drastic action to address the current energy crisis.
This is the view of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) senior engineer Joanne Calitz, who recently released new research findings around energy in the country.
Calitz said South Africans can expect heavy load-shedding to continue for at least two to three years, depending on the key decisions and actions taken by the relevant entities.
This is in stark contrast to Eskom’s prediction that South Africans could expect only three days of stage 1 load-shedding this winter.
In July, stage 2 load-shedding returned to South Africa and quickly exceeded the three days predicted by Eskom.
This week, Eskom implemented stage 2 load-shedding again due to increased pressure on the power generation system.
“This load-shedding has been caused by an increase in plant breakdowns during the night and early hours of the morning,” Eskom said.
A delay in the return to service of two power generation units at Duvha and Tutuka and the breakdowns of four units at the Kriel, Tutuka, and Kendal power stations has resulted in the need for load-shedding, the power utility said.
Load shedding may continue for years
Speaking to SABC News, Calitz said the CSIR expects a high probability of load-shedding for the next two years.
She said 2019 was a very bad year for load-shedding, with unprecedented stage 6 load-shedding kicking in for the first time.
However, in 2020 thus far, South Africa has surpassed 2019 levels despite the lockdown during which electricity demand plummeted.
If the blackouts continue for the rest of the year, South Africa is set for its worst year of load-shedding on record.
She added that unless drastic action is taken, load-shedding can continue over the next few years and even get significantly worse than now.
According to the updated Energy Availability Factor (EAF) and demand forecast, South Africa should expect over 4,500GWh of load-shedding in 2022, compared to the 1,352GWh the country suffered in 2019.
What should be done to prevent long-term load shedding
Calitz said there are three interventions which are needed to help resolve the energy crisis in South Africa.
The first is the DMRE Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme (RMPPP) which will procure around 2,000MW to 3,000MW of emergency power.
She said this process should be fast-tracked to address the remaining capacity and energy gaps within the country and to ensure capacity can come online timeously.
The second intervention is to accelerate the new capacity which is planned in the integrated resource plan.
This new power generation capacity includes solar power, battery storage systems, and gas.
The third is for businesses and homes to start to generate their own power through solar power installations on a large scale.
Calitz said while it is currently happening on a small scale, it is not enough to relieve pressure on the grid.
She suggested the launch of incentives and relaxed regulations to allow large energy users to generate their own power.