South Africa’s power crisis could come to an end sooner than anticipated, with the intensity of rolling blackouts being reduced, according to the minister of electricity.
“I said when I started this assignment, we will resolve load-shedding, and I think that we will resolve it much quicker than we had anticipated,” Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Sunday.
Ramokgopa previously said that load-shedding could be significantly reduced by September 2023 and eliminated by the end of the year.
He backtracked on this timeline when he told a meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee that it would be impossible to stop the rotational power cuts by the end of 2023.
Since then, he has refused to give definitive timelines for reducing load-shedding. In Sunday’s media conference, Ramokgopa reiterated this stance.
“I don’t give dates. I give you the megawatts, and it’s up to you to decide,” Ramokgopa said.
Without confirmation of when the “expected” end of load-shedding would have been, it is impossible to speculate on what “sooner” means.
According to a cabinet statement last week, Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) was “closer to” 70%, a target set to Eskom’s board.
However, when MyBroadband contacted acting government spokesperson Nomonde Mnukwa for clarification, she explained that the statement was based on what Ramokgopa said during his media briefing last Sunday.
At that briefing, Ramokgopa said that Eskom’s EAF was averaging 60% and that the utility was closer to hitting its target of 70% EAF.
This is technically true, as the so-called energy availability factor (called the capacity factor elsewhere) had dropped to historic lows of less than 50% earlier this year because of frequent breakdowns at state-owned power utility Eskom’s plants.
However, Ramokgopa’s statement glosses over the fact that Eskom’s EAF was still below last year’s trend line.
The chart below shows that the EAF in the last week of June was higher than the same time last year.
For the declining trend to reverse, the grey line representing this year’s weekly EAF must be consistently higher than the orange dotted line.
Improved generation capacity means there is now more scope to undertake planned maintenance, said Ramokgopa at the briefing.
Eskom has been using rolling blackouts since 2008 to reduce reliance on its ailing plants.
Those outages have intensified, with regular outages since January lasting as long as 12 hours a day.
Recently the power cuts have been reduced, and there’s electricity available for about two-thirds of each day.
Reporting with Bloomberg.