South Africa’s electricity crisis hits in 2021

Eskom today announced that it will implement stage 2 load-shedding between 22:00 and 05:00 on Wednesday 6 January and Thursday 7 January.

Eskom said the load-shedding is necessary to recover and preserve its emergency generation reserves.

These reserves have been used to “support the system during the week following the earlier-than-planned shutdown of Koeberg Unit 1 and other units whose return to service has been delayed”.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha told ENCA that Eskom had breakdowns which resulted in a loss of 12,073MW.

This is in addition to 6,672MW of generation capacity which is offline because of planned maintenance.

Mantshantsha highlighted that Koeberg Unit 1, which generates 900MW, was taken out of service to repair a steam generator leak.

The other breakdowns are in much older coal-fired power stations, like Letaba, Tutuka, Matimba, and Camden.

This has pushed Eskom’s generation capacity which is unavailable to nearly 20,000MW, which has necessitated load-shedding.

Mantshantsha said Eskom remains focussed on increasing planned maintenance to improve the reliability of the power stations.

This included increased maintenance during the festive season when electricity demand is lower than usual.

“We are able to restrict load-shedding to the evenings because of the units which returned from maintenance after the festive season,” he said.

What to expect in 2021

Mantshantsha said South Africans should expect load-shedding to be a reality for the better part of the year.

“We will start seeing some improvements later in the year – around September – but load-shedding will not be completely eliminated,” he said.

The only thing which will eliminate load-shedding for good, he said, is new power stations coming online.

“Eskom is currently operating with very unreliable machines which have to be run very hard, as we have done for the past three years,” he said.

While renewable energy provides additional power to South Africa, it has shortcomings in terms of availability.

“You cannot just switch on and off renewable energy as you please, as is the case with base load,” he said.

Wind, for example, has the best generation performance in the early hours of the morning in coastal areas.

In terms of solar, Eskom has 2,000MW of installed capacity from which it gets around 30% on a daily basis.

“It is really not something you can rely on to power a growing economy as you have no control over when the sun will shine or the wind will blow,” he said.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha interview

Now read: Eskom stage 2 load-shedding implemented

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South Africa’s electricity crisis hits in 2021