Eskom keeps South Africa in the dark

Energy experts are accusing Eskom of not providing South Africans with essential information about its power system performance and load-shedding.

The power producer is also accused of deliberately deceiving the public on load-shedding and which stages it is implementing.

Over the past few weeks, four main complaints arose regarding the information Eskom provided publicly:

  1. Eskom is hiding valuable power system performance information from South Africans.
  2. Eskom’s load-shedding stages do not correspond with its load-shedding data.
  3. Eskom is not playing open cards regarding maintenance on its power stations.
  4. Eskom is providing over-optimistic and inaccurate information about the outlook for load-shedding.

These complaints are not new but rose to prominence again after the country experienced three weeks of load-shedding this winter.

It is of value to look at each of these accusations to see what Eskom is accused of and its feedback on the issue.

Eskom hiding valuable power system performance information

Over the past few months, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has been trying to get Eskom to make its power system performance information publicly available.

OUTA said Eskom initially delayed responding to its correspondence and then refused its request.

On 3 April, OUTA filed an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) with Eskom.

They asked for a list of specified power system performance information to be made available to the public.

Five months later, Eskom responded by publishing a new portal where South Africans can view the system status and related data.

OUTA’s energy advisor, Chris Yelland said while it is a good start, it is a watered-down version of the information which they requested.

He added that it is far inferior to the publicly available information provided by Eskom’s peers around the world.

OUTA, for example, requested an hourly data feed from Eskom. Instead, the power producer presented its own dashboard which is updated daily.

No zoom, pan, trend analysis, or data download facilities are provided, and no energy availability factor (EAF) information is available.

There are also no correlation analysis facilities and the way data is presented is rudimentary, and not in line with current IT best practice.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha told MyBroadband as with time, and as the dashboard is being built up, Eskom will “eventually be able to populate the dashboard with live data for the public’s consumption”.

Eskom’s load-shedding data

Energy advisor Ted Blom said Eskom is “falling grossly short” of supplying the South Africa economy with the electricity it needs.

He further accused Eskom of deliberately deceiving the public on which load-shedding stages it is implementing.

He said Eskom shed over 5,000MW on two successive days – Wednesday 2 September and Thursday 3 September.

This, Blom said, equates to implementing stage 6 load-shedding, which Eskom did not disclose.

Eskom disputed Blom’s claims, saying once it declares Stage 4 load-shedding, it can request any major industrial customer to curtail up to 20% of load.

“This amounts to 1,200MW of demand that must be curtailed by industrial customers as part of the licenced load curtailment in terms,” Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said.

“Load-shedding is what Eskom sheds from the public, and that is what Eskom announced at Stage 4.”

The table below shows the load-shedding information shared by Mantshantsha which Blom is referring to.

Eskom Load-Shedding Stages
Stage What it means
Stage 1 Up to 1,000 MW of the national load to be shed
Stage 2 Up to 2,000 MW of the national load to be shed
Stage 3 Up to 3,000 MW of the national load to be shed
Stage 4 Up to 4,000 MW of the national load to be shed
Stage 5 Up to 5,000 MW of the national load to be shed
Stage 6 Up to 6,000 MW of the national load to be shed
Stage 7 Up to 7,000 MW of the national load to be shed
Stage 8 Up to 8,000 MW of the national load to be shed
Eskom Load-Shedding Statistics
Date Load-Shedding
Wednesday 5,359MW
Thursday 5,642MW

Eskom not playing open cards about maintenance

Blom is also accusing Eskom of not playing open cards regarding maintenance at its power stations.

In April, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said the power utility has been able to double down on short-term maintenance thanks to reduced demand during the lockdown.

De Ruyter previously told Parliament that they would recondition all Eskom Gensets within 12 months.

Blom said neither the planned maintenance nor the recondition of all Eskom Gensets happened as promised.

“He has now changed the recondition time-frame to 24-months, but there is still no firm agreement with any of the OEMs he was targeting in his reliability maintenance programme,” Blom said.

He said Eskom does not have the budget to recondition all Eskom Gensets as promised.

Blom further said Eskom did not perform all the maintenance it has planned to do during the lockdown.

“In fact, the maintenance during lockdown was lower because Eskom workers refused to expose themselves to the environment, and suppliers and logistics were closed,” he said.

“The Eskom CEO never corrected this expectation and misrepresentation that was caused by his promise.”

Eskom providing over-optimistic load-shedding information

In May Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said South Africans can expect only three days of stage 1 load-shedding this winter, which should occur late in July.

It was not long before De Ruyter was proved wrong, and four months later the country already had around three weeks of load-shedding, often reaching stage 4.

Mantshantsha explained De Ruyter’s claims were based on information they had at the time.

This points to inaccurate information provided to De Ruyter and substantiates claims that Eskom is underestimating problems at the company.

This inaccurate claim, however, did not stop Mantshantsha from now claiming that “we are seeing the end of load-shedding” after 13 years of power failures.

Mantshantsha’s claim echoes Deputy President David Mabuza’s recent statement that the introduction of the Medupi and Kusile power plants to the grid will help ease load-shedding.

He added that the introduction of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) will also help with the country’s power cuts.

Experts, however, dispute the claims that load-shedding is set to end soon and warn that things may get worse.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) researchers said South Africa should brace itself for exponential increases to load-shedding until 2022 unless drastic action is taken.

“Not only will load-shedding continue over the next few years – it will get significantly worse,” they said.

Energy analyst Chris Yelland echoed these views, saying the country urgently needs 6,000MW of new generation capacity in the next two to three years.

He said unless South Africa launches courageous and bold decision policy initiatives, load-shedding is here to stay.

“The only way to stop load-shedding is to replace poor-performing coal-fired power stations with reliable and low-cost wind, solar PV, battery storage, and gas-to-power generation,” Yelland said.

He added that this new capacity procurement will not come from Eskom, which is why legislative and policy changes are needed.

Load-shedding this year

The table below gives an overview of load-shedding in 2020.

Load-Shedding in 2020
Day Date Load-Shedding
1 04-Jan-20 Stage 2
2 05-Jan-20 Stage 2
3 08-Jan-20 Stage 2
4 09-Jan-20 Stage 2
5 10-Jan-20 Stage 1
6 30-Jan-20 Stage 2
7 31-Jan-20 Stage 2
8 01-Feb-20 Stage 2
9 02-Feb-20 Stage 2
10 03-Feb-20 Stage 2
11 04-Feb-20 Stage 2
12 05-Feb-20 Stage 2
13 06-Feb-20 Stage 2
14 07-Feb-20 Stage 2
15 08-Feb-20 Stage 2
16 09-Feb-20 Stage 2
17 10-Feb-20 Stage 1
18 11-Feb-20 Stage 1
19 14-Feb-20 Stage 2
20 15-Feb-20 Stage 3
21 20-Feb-20 Stage 2
22 21-Feb-20 Stage 2
23 22-Feb-20 Stage 2
24 09-Mar-20 Stage 2
25 10-Mar-20 Stage 4
26 11-Mar-20 Stage 4
27 12-Mar-20 Stage 4
28 13-Mar-20 Stage 3
29 14-Mar-20 Stage 2
30 10-Jul-20 Stage 2
31 11-Jul-20 Stage 2
32 12-Jul-20 Stage 2
33 13-Jul-20 Stage 2
34 14-Jul-20 Stage 2
35 15-Jul-20 Stage 2
36 16-Jul-20 Stage 1
37 13-Aug-20 Stage 2
38 14-Aug-20 Stage 2
39 18-Aug-20 Stage 2
40 19-Aug-20 Stage 2
41 20-Aug-20 Stage 2
42 01-Sep-20 Stage 2
43 02-Sep-20 Stage 4
44 03-Sep-20 Stage 4
45 04-Sep-20 Stage 3
46 05-Sep-20 Stage 2
47 06-Sep-20 Stage 2
48 07-Sep-20 Stage 2
49 08-Sep-20 Stage 1

Now read: You can now view Eskom’s power data online

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Eskom keeps South Africa in the dark