Lockdown saved South Africa from more load-shedding

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, South Africans consumed 20 million fewer megawatts than Eskom forecasted it would.

Had the country consumed electricity in line with Eskom’s predictions, load-shedding would have been rampant throughout the country.

This is according to live data from Eskom’s lockdown demand tracker.

Each stage of load-shedding aims to reduce electricity consumption further, and the stages are structured as follows:

  • Stage 1 allows up to 1000 MW to be shed
  • Stage 2 allows up to 2000 MW to be shed
  • Stage 3 allows up to 3000 MW to be shed
  • Stage 4 allows up to 4000 MW to be shed
  • Stage 5 allows up to 5000 MW to be shed
  • Stage 6 allows up to 6000 MW to be shed
  • Stage 7 allows up to 7000 MW to be shed
  • Stage 8 allows up to 8000 MW to be shed

From April 2020, the first full month of lockdown, to June 2021, the average deviation from Eskom’s hourly estimate has been 1,500 MW.

In 2021, despite having far less load on its systems than Eskom predicted it would, load-shedding has still been widely implemented.

Had Eskom’s forecast been met, South Africa would have had between one and two more stages of load-shedding than it had at any given moment in 2021 so far.

Below is a chart showing Eskom’s forecasted hourly demand in megawatts, compared to the actual demand. The chart shows monthly averages as calculated from the hourly statistics.

Eskom forecast vs actual
(Click to enlarge)

Energy expert Chris Yelland explained that the deviation from Eskoms’s forecast is primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as continued lockdowns dampened business activity.

South Africa’s weakened economy is not a substantial factor in the deviation, as Eskom’s forecasts account for the state of the economy.

The lockdown’s impact on consumption is most obvious in April 2020 — the only level 5 lockdown thus far — which saw South Africa’s hourly consumption average of 6,269 megawatts lower than Eskom’s forecasts.

Between April and August, the demand for electricity in South Africa rose consistently.

September was the only month where demand was in line with forecasted consumption, with the hourly average demand 241 megawatts higher than Eskom forecasted.

Had it not been for this consistently lower demand, load-shedding in South Africa would have been far worse during this past year.

Now read: How Eskom avoided more load-shedding this winter

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Lockdown saved South Africa from more load-shedding