Bad news about load-shedding in South Africa

South Africa experienced 650 hours of load-shedding during the first half of 2021, and Eskom’s data shows a worrying increase in unplanned outages.

This is according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has released a half-year update of its periodic annual statistics on utility-scale power generation.

Statistics for the first half of 2021 showed that system demand increased by 5% relative to the same period last year but was still 2.2% lower than the first half of 2019.

In other words, electricity demand in South Africa has not yet returned to similar levels seen before the onset of the Covid–19 pandemic.

An estimated 963 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy was shed, mainly through stage 2 load-shedding. Expressed as a percentage, South Africans experienced load-shedding 15% of the time.

“The extent of load-shedding experienced was largely driven by a declining Energy Availability Factor (EAF) of the existing coal fleet,” the CSIR’s Joanne Calitz and Jarrad Wright stated.

Overall the EAF was 61.3% for the first half of 2021, relative to 65% in 2020 and 66.9% in 2019.

“A concerning shift of the unplanned outage component of the EAF has also been highlighted where unplanned outages of up to 15,300 megawatt (MW) were experienced and were greater than 10,000MW for more than 80% of H1–2021.”

There has been a concerning shift from an equal level of planned maintenance (PCLF) and unplanned maintenance (UCLF) to much higher levels of unplanned maintenance between 2017 and 2021. (Click to enlarge)

The CSIR noted that coal continues to dominate the South African energy mix, contributing 83.5% in the first half of 2021 as an additional coal unit at the Kusile power station entered into commercial operation.

The contribution from renewable energy sources was almost 11% and included solar photovoltaics, wind, hydro, and concentrated solar power.

South Africa’s total zero-carbon energy sources were 14.3% of its energy mix when factoring in nuclear power station Koeberg.

The statistics showed that South Africa’s energy mix breaks down as follows:

  • Coal energy — 94TWh (83.5%)
  • Nuclear energy — 4.3TWh (3.7%)
  • Renewable energy — 12.4TWh (11%)
  • Variable renewable energy — 6.8TWh (6%)
  • Diesel — 1.9 TWh (1.7%)

The CSIR said that during the first half of 2021, South Africa had 52.6GW of nominal public wholesale capacity:

  • Coal — 38.7GW
  • Nuclear — 1.9GW
  • Diesel (open cycle gas turbines) — 3.4GW
  • Hydro nominal capacity — 0.6GW
  • Hydro and pumped storage combined — 2.7GW
  • Wind — 2.6 GW
  • Solar PV — 2.2 GW
  • Concentrated solar power — 0.5GW

725MW of coal, 118MW of wind, and 54 MW of utility-scale solar PV became operational in the first half of 2021.

Now read: How Zoltan Miklos slashed his electricity bill to R1,100 per month

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Bad news about load-shedding in South Africa