Eskom load-shedding red alert

Eskom has released its weekly system status report, and its outlook for the year ahead forecasts continuous and severe load-shedding.

“South Africa’s national utility ⁦Eskom doesn’t like me using the term ‘red alert’ but this is their table on the electricity outlook and the probability of severe power cuts,” energy policy and investment specialist Anton Eberhard said about the forecast..

Each week, the state-owned power utility publishes a 52-week outlook based on the previous week’s operational data.

It forecasts the likelihood of load-shedding based on expected supply and demand.

The outlook considers two scenarios: the planned risk level, and the likely risk scenario.

Each scenario receives a colour code for the next 52 weeks based on Eskom’s anticipated electricity generation capacity shortfall for that week.

Green indicates adequate capacity to meet South Africa’s electricity demand and maintain its operating reserve.

Yellow means Eskom might be up to 1,000MW short to maintain its operating reserves. This suggests the possibility of stage 1 load-shedding, depending on the emergency reserves Eskom has available.

Orange shows a definite shortfall of between 1,001MW and 2,000MW to meet demand and reserves — stage 1 to stage 2 power cuts.

Red is the worst-case scenario accounted for by the outlook and indicates Eskom expects to be over 2,000MW short to meet demand and maintain its reserve.

Eskom’s current 52-week outlook is completely red for both risk scenarios.

Therefore, based on its current assumptions, it expects to implement near-continuous power cuts at stage 2 or higher for the following year.

Eskom’s assumptions are a 2,200MW operating reserve and breakdowns of up to 16,000MW.

The “planned” risk scenario adds these two numbers together and assumes 18,200MW is unavailable. The “likely” risk scenario adds 2,000MW of outages to this number.

Eskom’s weekly generation availability report also paints a bleak picture, with the energy availability factor (EAF) declining from 53.47% to 52.62%.

EAF is the ratio of the available energy generation relative to the maximum amount of energy that could be produced over a given period.

The Eskom board appointed in October 2022 was tasked with increasing Eskom’s EAF to 70% by 31 March 2025.

As part of a two-year generation improvement plan, it aimed to bring the figure to the upper 59–60% by 31 March 2023, and 65% a year later.

Eskom board chair Mpho Makwana previously told journalists that these are ambitious goals meant to galvanise the state-owned power utility by aiming high.

Even if the utility doesn’t meet these goals, it would be a victory if there has been substantial improvement in EAF.

Unfortunately, Eskom’s EAF continues to decline, as the chart below compiled by EE Business Intelligence’s Chris Yelland shows.

For Eskom’s generation division to achieve a meaningful turnaround, the grey line representing 2023’s EAF data must climb above last year’s trendline (the orange dotted line).

Courtesy of Chris Yelland, EE Business Intelligence

Eskom is currently implementing continuous stage 6 power cuts after a series of breakdowns and a cold snap in parts of the country.

It has also issued a warning for potential higher stages of load-shedding and urged households and businesses to switch off non-essential appliances during the evenings.

“Due to the cold weather, we appeal to all members of the public to reduce the electricity demand between 17:00 and 21:00, by switching off non-essential appliances, mainly geysers, swimming pool pumps and electric heaters,” it said.


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Eskom load-shedding red alert