South Africans should brace themselves for more severe load-shedding later this month.
This is according to Sunday newspaper Rapport, which said that Eskom plans to take six generating units at its ageing coal power plants offline for planned maintenance.
According to feedback from energy expert Chris Yelland, these outages coupled with unexpected breakdowns could result in supply capacity shortages that will require stage 4 or stage 5 load-shedding to be implemented.
During stage 4 load-shedding, up to 4,000MW is shed from the national grid.
This means that South Africans can expect double the frequency of stage 2 load-shedding, with two hours of load-shedding 12 times over a four day period.
Stage 5 load-shedding will see 5,000MW being shed, which means households will effectively suffer around 7.5 hours of load-shedding per day.
Economist Mike Schüssler warned that this increase could curtail the small gains made by South Africa’s economy as it has been recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Full week of stage 2 load-shedding
According to data from popular load-shedding app EskomSePush, the last time Eskom implemented stage 4 load-shedding was in September 2020.
The utility has in recent days suffered numerous unexpected breakdowns at several power plants, while electricity demand in the country has simultaneously risen due to colder weather.
Its emergency generation reserves had also been drained due to extensive utilisation to keep load-shedding at bay for several days.
As a result, stage 2 load-shedding was implemented every day over the past week.
Eskom’s evening peak feedback statistics during this week showed that total peak demand repeatedly exceeded generation capacity.
On Saturday evening, for example, available generation stood at 31,459MW, while total demand had reached 31,907MW.
Eskom also suspended the general manager of Koeberg power station this week, due to a delay in the return to service of a generating unit at the nuclear facility.
Koeberg Unit 1 has been down since January, which means that 900MW of generating capacity has been unavailable for five months.
Eskom now plans to bring the unit back online in the third week of June.
Yelland said this was an unusual occurence, as refuelling and maintenance of these units typically took about three months.
He added that this was bad news for the long-delayed planned major shutdowns of both Koeberg Unit 1 and Unit 2, which had to be undertaken for replacement of their steam generators to extend the plant’s operating lifetime.