Eskom’s code red

The risk of load-shedding between September 2022 and September 2023 is remarkably high, according to Eskom’s likely risk scenario for the year ahead.

The outlook — which covers the 52 weeks ending mid-September 2023 — shows that Eskom could likely be more than 2,001MW short to meet demand and reserves during 49 of the 52 weeks. This works out to 94% of the year.

Eskom will likely be short between 1,001MW and 2,000MW for three weeks — one in December 2022, January 2023, and September 2023.

To put the shortages into perspective, a lack of 2,001MW of generation capacity or more translates to at least Stage 2 load-shedding, meaning South Africa could be in Stage 2 load-shedding for 49 weeks over the coming year.

Energy expert Anton Eberhard took to Twitter, saying South Africans should be looking to buy a backup power system to combat the rotational power cuts.

“Code red. If you’ve not yet bought your home or business [a] solar PV + battery system yet, now’s the time,” he said.

Eskom breaks down its outlook into two risk levels, the first being a base scenario of outages (planned risk level), where unplanned outages reach 15,200MW.

However, it also specifies that further unplanned outages are likely, providing a “likely risk scenario” where breakdowns reach 17,200MW.

In the second scenario, South Africa will experience at least Stage 2 load-shedding for 49 weeks of the coming year.

The planned risk level is slightly better, indicating that South Africa will experience between Stage 1 and Stage 2 load-shedding for 27 weeks between now and September 2023.

However, with the planned risk level scenario, the power utility expects to be around 1,000MW short to replenish its emergency reserves for 23 weeks of the year, meaning there is the chance that it will need to implement at least Stage 1 load-shedding to do so.

The “likely risk scenario” somewhat aligns with Eskom’s worst-case scenario for its anticipated power system performance over the coming year.

Eskom’s data showed that the worst-case scenario would require 326 days of load-shedding over the 12 months.

The power utility estimates the amount of load-shedding it will have to implement. It uses a base case scenario that assumes a certain amount of unplanned outages and other losses.

It recently changed its approach, having increased its outage assumptions by 1,000MW. It previously assumed that unplanned outages would average 12,000MW during the summer months.

Eskom has now increased the assumption to 13,000MW throughout the year.

In this best-case scenario, South Africans can still expect up to 24 days of Stage 1 load-shedding.

However, Eskom’s more medium-risk assumption is a significant step up. South Africa will see up to 203 days of likely Stage 2 load-shedding throughout the year in the medium-risk scenario.

Over 23,000MW of new capacity in the works

There is, however, light at the end of the load-shedding tunnel.

Eskom detailed its plans to add 23,294MW of new generation capacity to the grid over the next two and a half years.

“Successful implementation of all the initiatives will greatly reduce the risk of load-shedding,” the utility said.

Eskom provided the following timeline for the addition of new capacity to the grid:

  • February 2023 — 3,514MW
  • August 2023 — 2,861MW
  • February 2024 — 1,474MW
  • August 2024 — 7,389MW
  • February 2025 and afterwards — 8,011MW

However, it’s worth noting that adding this capacity to the grid will require Eskom’s plant performance to improve according to Eskom’s generation recovery plan.

Eskom plunged South Africa into Stage 2 load-shedding on Tuesday, 6 September, and the country has experienced up to Stage 4 load-shedding since.

The current schedule will see Stage 2 load-shedding run until midnight on Friday, 16 September.

Now read: Eskom changes load-shedding schedule for next week — here is the timetable

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Eskom’s code red