Eskom reveals worst-case for load-shedding

Eskom has provided its outlook for load-shedding over the next seven months, revealing a worst-case scenario with 90 days of load-shedding.

The state-owned power utility showed the forecast during its latest State of the System briefing, in which the utility provided an update on its operational performance in recent months.

The power utility’s CEO, André de Ruyter, said that Eskom’s power plant performance surpassed that of the previous quarter and the same period in 2020.

However, he emphasised that much still needed to be done for the utility to achieve operational sustainability and ensure energy security for South Africa.

Therefore, the risk of load-shedding still existed, and he encouraged South Africans to use electricity sparingly.

Eskom last implemented load-shedding on 19 November 2021, more than two months ago.

However, the utility has benefited from decreased demand as major power-intensive industries shut down for the holiday period.

De Ruyter said an important component of Eskom’s reliability maintenance programme was the refurbishment of Koeberg nuclear power station units.

Koeberg Unit 2 was recently taken offline to replace its steam generators, which is expected to take several months.

The refurbishment of Koeberg Unit 1 will follow that.

Koeberg nuclear power station. Credit: Johann Van Tonder /

The unavailability of these units will cause greater reliance on Eskom’s coal-fired power station fleet.

Fortunately, South Africans are unlikely to hear the oft-repeated line that load-shedding was required because of “wet coal”, despite heavy rainfall over the last few weeks.

Eskom said its rain readiness plans continued to be effective against high and early summer rainfalls.

“Coal stock levels remain healthy with an average of 46 stock days. Including Medupi Power Station, which has excess coal, this rises to an average 80 days’ worth of stock,” Eskom stated.

“No power station is below Eskom prescribed levels or Grid Code requirements,” it added.

It also said a strong focus on coal quality was paying dividends, with coal consumption per unit of electricity produced showing a steady improvement.

In addition, “good progress” was being made in reducing the rand per ton cost of coal.

Despite the improvements in coal generation, Eskom anticipates it will still need to rely heavily on emergency generation in the form of open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).

The graph below shows Eskom’s capacity outlook for the next 18 months, showing how its normal available capacity will not be able to meet peak residual demand with the use of OCGTs.

According to Eskom’s outlook for the next seven months, load-shedding days could range between 0 and 90 days.

Eskom has an optimistic scenario that assumes 12,000MW of unavailable capacity during the summer months and 11,000MW during the winter months.

In this case, Eskom does not anticipate any load-shedding will be required until the end of August 2022. However, it will have to spend R1.3 billion on diesel for its OCGTs.

Under a more moderate outlook that assumes another 1,000MW of unplanned capacity for each season, Eskom only expects seven days of Stage 1 load-shedding will be required.

For this forecast, it expects to spend R3.5 billion to run OCGTs.

In its worst-case scenario, Eskom plans for 14,000MW of unplanned unavailability during the summer months and 13,000MW during the winter months.

That would require a total of 90 days of Stage 2 load-shedding if Eskom spent R7.5 billion on diesel for OCGTs.

However, the utility said this amount of spending would be unfeasible, and it would likely have to resort to higher levels of load-shedding under this scenario.

The table below summarises Eskom’s load-shedding outlook until 31 August 2022.

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Eskom reveals worst-case for load-shedding