Real reason behind load-shedding in South Africa

South Africa has experienced load-shedding since 2007 because the country failed to build new power stations to keep up with economic growth and replace ageing generation plants.

Between 1961 and 1991, Eskom completed 14 new power stations with an installed capacity of 35,804MW.

Over the next 30 years, between 1991 and 2021, Eskom only completed one new power station, Majuba, with an installed capacity of 4,110MW.

Construction of Medupi and Kusile, with a combined installed capacity of 9,564MW, began in 2007, but these power plants are still not fully operational.

Design faults, corruption, and mismanagement delayed the completion of these important stations.

Eskom’s new management is addressing these challenges, but it is taking much longer than expected.

Deputy President David Mabuza said in September 2020 that load-shedding would be “sorted once the Medupi power plant is incorporated into the grid”.

He also said the Medupi power station would be completed in 2020, while Kusile will be completed by 2023.

Fast forward nine months and South Africa is still dogged by load-shedding, and Medupi is still not functioning optimally.

The completion of Kusile has also been delayed again. Eskom has committed to completing the Kusile power station within the 2024/25 financial year – 18 years after construction began.

The government’s lack of planning, and Eskom’s inability to complete Medupi and Kusile as initially planned, is costing the country dearly.

2020 was the worst year for load-shedding South Africa has ever experienced despite lower demand because of the lockdown.

This year started off even worse. Dr Jarrad Wright, the principal engineer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), warned that 2021 would be even worse for load-shedding than 2020.

What many South Africans find frustrating is that the government was informed that they should take action to secure the country’s electricity supply.

In 1998, the Department of Minerals and Energy said, “Eskom’s generation capacity surplus will be fully utilised by about 2007”.

This warning was ignored, and, as predicted, South Africa ran out of energy in 2007 and had to implement load-shedding.

Energy experts issued many subsequent warnings about the country’s electricity supply shortages, but they also fell on deaf ears.

The interests of corrupt Eskom executives and politically connected businesspeople enjoyed preference over the interests of the country.

Instead of building new power stations and opening up the grid, Eskom and mega-projects like Medupi and Kusile were easy targets for looting.

The result is that the country has not built enough power stations and ran out of electricity.

The image below shows the power station stations built in two 30-year periods – 1961 to 1991, and 1991 and 2021.

Power Stations 1961 - 2021
Power Stations 1961 – 2021

Now read: Eskom needs R143 billion to shut down coal plants by 2050

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Real reason behind load-shedding in South Africa