Eskom CEO André de Ruyter has explained what to expect in terms of rolling blackouts over the next year.
Speaking at the power utility’s State of the System briefing on 22 October, De Ruyter said that a number of factors have led to a significant risk of load-shedding remaining over the next year.
He said that long-overdue major maintenance is being conducted, design flaws at Medupi and Kusile are being fixed, and the results of this are promising.
“All of this will contribute to a step-change in the availability of our generation system by April of next year,” De Ruyter said. “But this is not yet enough to eliminate the risk entirely of load-shedding.”
“There is more work that needs to be done but we anticipate that by September of next year, we will have been able to significantly reduce but not eliminate the risk of load-shedding going forward.”
This means that load-shedding will remain a threat throughout most of 2021, with any major disruption to the national power grid likely resulting in the need to impose rolling blackouts on the country.
The load-shedding forecast can be summarised as follows:
- Now – April 2021 – Risk of load-shedding
- April 2021 – Step-change in generation capacity
- April 2021 – September 2021 – Risk of load-shedding remains over the winter period
- September 2021 – Risk of load-shedding reduced
Eskom’s generation division warned that the public is cautioned to expect an increased risk of load-shedding until late 2021 while reliability maintenance is conducted.
State of the System
Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer noted that Eskom was forced to implement load-shedding in July, August, and September this year, which he said was primarily due to high levels of unplanned losses throughout the generation fleet.
These were exacerbated by the following losses:
- Trips – Up to 4,000MW
- Camden unavailability – 1,300MW
- Koeberg Unit 2 Outage – 920MW
- Unavailability of Medupi and Kusile – 1,700MW
These factors were experienced over and above the 11,000MW predicted unplanned power losses throughout the generation fleet Eskom assumed would occur throughout winter.
Oberholzer echoed De Ruyter’s assessment of the importance of resolving the design defects at the Medupi and Kusile power plants.
“Moving forward, when we solve all the design issues that we do have at the new power stations, we will move quite a way towards getting out of this phase and reducing the risk of load-shedding,” Oberholzer said.
He also said the risk of load-shedding will remain until after the winter season next year.
“We are doing a lot of maintenance, and I believe we will see the first step-change in April next year, and then it will improve until after the winter period,” Oberholzer said.
“However, up until then the risk of load-shedding remains – unfortunately, that is where we find ourselves.”
“We are fully confident that we can turn this around – we just need time,” Oberholzer said.
Losing a third of generation capacity
One of the significant challenges faced by Eskom is that over the next decade, the power utility will lose anywhere between 8,000MW and 12,000MW as a result of power plants being decommissioned.
“It is clear that we pose a strategic risk to the country as a whole,” De Ruyter said.
“We have stepped up our reliability maintenance programme to the point where we have 14% of our units undergoing maintenance – however, we can only fix so much.”
“The average age of our power station fleet is 39 years old, and a number of our power stations are reaching the end of their design lives.”
He said these design lives are further compromised by the historical lack of significant maintenance that has been conducted on this infrastructure.
“We will therefore take between 8,000MW and 12,000MW of overall capacity out of commission over the next decade, and that will create a shortfall in capacity going forward.”
The government is aiding Eskom in its ability to recoup this looming loss in power generation through the procurement of independent power in the immediate future.
The decommissioning of infrastructure remains a significant problem for Eskom going forward, however, as it will need to source new reliable generation over the next decade.
The graphs below show Eskom’s capacity outlook projections from now until March 2021, as well as its unplanned outage performance over the same period.