Eskom CEO gives bleak outlook for load-shedding in South Africa

Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter has outlined the state of Eskom’s electricity generation system, painting a bleak picture of load-shedding for the next few years.

“Openness and transparency are critical pillars of any organisation, even more apt for Eskom as a state-owned enterprise,” said De Ruyter, who was speaking at the company’s latest State of the System briefing.

“The status of the system briefing today gives us yet another opportunity to be transparent about Eskom’s operations and to keep South Africans and all stakeholders informed.”

As a result of Eskom’s reliability maintenance programme, which sees the power utility take plants offline to fix major defects and improve reliability, the company’s energy availability factor (EAF) declines and this will lead to an increased risk of load-shedding.

“At the System update of January 2020, we indicated the launch of our reliability maintenance programme, and highlighted the increased risk of load-shedding while this programme is implemented,” De Ruyter said.

“Despite the initial challenges posed by the national COVID-19 lockdowns, we have sustained high levels of maintenance, with planned maintenance gradually increasing to between 5,500MW and 7,000MW, or approximately 12% of Eskom’s total capacity.”

This planned maintenance paired with the increasing shortfall in capacity means that the risk of load-shedding will not go away any time soon.

Five-year shortfall

De Ruyter stressed that Eskom would suffer a power shortfall for the next five years and the risk of load-shedding will remain as it continues to try and overhaul its worn-out power plants to improve their reliability.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Eskom has to reiterate that there will continue to be an electricity supply shortfall of approximately 4,000MW over the next five years,” he said.

“Capacity challenges will remain one of the key challenges South Africa will continue to grapple with.”

“The ultimate aim is to improve performance to reduce the risk of load-shedding. The enormity of this task cannot be overstated,” De Ruyter said.

The power utility CEO’s projections and warnings are in line with a recent study published by the CSIR, which found that load-shedding in 2020 was driven primarily by Eskom’s declining EAF.

As its EAF has continued to decline even lower in the year to date as a result of both reliability maintenance and unplanned outages, it is apparent that the risk of load-shedding will remain and may even be higher than last year.

Significant changes to the power system which could alleviate this pressure include the expected completion of more power units at Kusile and Medupi this year, as well as the government’s speed in bringing independent emergency power onto the national grid.

Now read: Eskom stage 2 load-shedding to continue until Wednesday

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Eskom CEO gives bleak outlook for load-shedding in South Africa