Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter has recently warned that South Africa is facing an electricity shortfall of 4,000MW for the next five years which means the risk of load-shedding will remain.
Speaking at Eskom’s latest State of the System briefing, De Ruyter said capacity challenges will remain one of the key challenges South Africa will continue to grapple with.
He said while Eskom’s aim is to improve their power generation performance and reduce the risk of load shedding, the enormity of this task cannot be overstated.
Commenting on De Ruyter’s briefing, energy expert Chris Yelland said he sensed the problems faced by Eskom are becoming overwhelming.
“I did not sense optimism that they were on top of things. Rather, I sensed that the problems were so endemic that they are becoming overwhelming,” said Yelland.
He said there was the same rhetoric of old plants breaking down, new plants not performing as required, and new builds not happening fast enough.
Eskom reiterated its previous statements that South Africans should expect load-shedding to be a reality for most of the year.
The power utility expects some improvements from September 2021, but load-shedding will not be completely eliminated.
Yelland was downbeat about the prospects of limited load-shedding from September, saying power shortages will remain for years and economic growth will aggravate the situation.
Last year South Africa experienced the worst load-shedding ever recorded despite the fact that demand was 5% lower because of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
This year demand is expected to be higher than last year as the economy recovers. This, coupled with Eskom’s maintenance programme, will result in further load-shedding.
Yelland said South Africans will have to learn to live with load-shedding for many years to come.
He said the solution to South Africa’s electricity woes will not come from new capacity, but rather from new generation capacity.
Adding new capacity to the grid, which needs to happen through state procurement, will take many years.
The short-term solutions are not what people want to hear – using less electricity, getting used to load-shedding, and becoming more energy efficient.
Yelland’s most important message to South African households and businesses is to become self-sufficient.
If possible, people should generate their own electricity to relief Eskom off its burden and limit their reliance on grid electricity.
This is a good option for households and smaller businesses, but for large customers there is a regulatory obstacle.
Charl Gous, CEO at ACES Africa, said it takes a long time to get approvals for self-generation facilities of above 1MW.
The Electricity Regulation Act requires entities that want to build plants greater than 1MW to obtain a licence from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).
This is a stumbling block for many businesses which can help to alleviate the electricity crisis in South Africa.
Yelland lambasted energy minister Gwede Mantashe for his lack of action on regulatory changes and for not speaking up during the latest energy crisis.
“We really need leadership. We need to know what has to be done,” he said.