South Africa could face stage 10 load-shedding this winter if Eskom cannot improve its generation capacity, with electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa warning that the power utility expects a shortfall of 8,000MW to 10,000MW.
He explained that Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) averages 53%, resulting in a significant gap between generation capacity and demand.
“Our initial computations suggest that we need something in the order of magnitude of about 6,000MW for us to be able to close this gap,” the minister said.
“This is a determination made on summer conditions. On average, Eskom can guarantee us about 27,000MW, and we know that peak demand in summer is about 32,000MW.”
“Now we are entering winter, which is going to be a very difficult period. The numbers suggest that historically the average [demand] is about 35,000MW, but it can go up to 37,000MW,” he added.
He explained that if you consider the guaranteed supply of 27,000MW, South Africa is looking at a shortfall of 8,000MW to 10,000MW — which equates to stage 8 to 10 load-shedding.
While the minister didn’t explicitly mention any load-shedding stages, the Eskom System Operator defines one stage of load-shedding as removing up to 1,000MW of demand from the grid. Stage 10 would therefore require shedding between 9,000MW and 10,000MW of load.
The System Operator is responsible for monitoring the national grid and ensuring its stability, including instituting load-shedding when demand exceeds supply.
“If you are sitting at a guaranteed supply of 27,000MW, the difference is about 5,000MW in summer,” Ramokgopa said.
“If this demand is going to go up to about 37,000MW — the worst case scenario — and we are not able to improve on this 27,000MW, you can see the gap grows from 5,000MW to 10,000MW.”
Ramokgopa outlined three ways to address the situation, with the first being Eskom ramping up its generation capacity.
“That is why we have been to Eskom to ask the question from the various station managers: ‘What is that your station is doing unit-by-unit to ensure that we ramp up generation?'”
The second option is to reduce demand by implementing load-shedding.
“We know that the System Operator introduced a mechanism that we commonly refer to as load-shedding, essentially denying the service of this demand,” Ramokgopa said.
“The third option is our preferred option — that you do both. That you ramp up generation and reduce demand.”
However, he stated that the daily needs of households and businesses must not be undermined by efforts to reduce demand. Efficiencies must therefore be found to reduce demand, rather than asking people to do without to conserve energy.
Several experts raised alarm bells regarding higher stages of load-shedding this winter, with energy expert at Hohm Energy, Matthew Cruise, saying there is a relatively high risk of stage 8 load-shedding — and possibly even higher stages — being implemented from July 2023.
However, it should be noted that the electricity demand assumptions for his predictions are significantly lower than Ramokgopa’s.
Cruise said there was a 50% chance that Eskom would have to implement stage 8 load-shedding as the country moves into its winter peak.
“In July, we have our winter peak demand that takes place, and demand on the grid is between 32,000 and 34,000 megawatts,” he said.
This is approximately a 4,000MW increase compared to peak demand during summer months — equivalent to four stages of load-shedding. South Africa was in constant stage 4 load-shedding at the time of his prediction.