Load-shedding in 2024 could be better than expected

2024 could see roughly the same or less load-shedding than in 2023, according to two energy experts who recently gave MyBroadband their forecasts.

2023 was South Africa’s worst year of load-shedding yet.

EskomSePush has calculated that the power cuts were in effect for around 82% of the time.

South Africans endured roughly 283 days of power cuts when measured using the actual time load-shedding was implemented.

When taking into account that the power cuts were sometimes only implemented for a part of the day, load-shedding was actually in effect on 335 days.

Eskom’s first system status outlook for 2024 showed that it expected to be unable to meet electricity demand during the coming year, with a shortage of at least 2,001MW every week, as shown in the table below.

Red indicates a shortage of more than 2,001MW is expected. Both the planned and likely risk scenarios, with assumed breakdowns of 18,200MW and 20,200MW, respectively, are coded red.

That means the utility anticipates it will need to implement at least stage 2 load-shedding at some point during each week.

However, energy expert Chris Yelland is hopeful that several important developments in Eskom’s generation expansion made for a less gloomy outlook.

Yelland explained that the contribution of  the new capacity expected to come online during 2024 would help alleviate load-shedding, including:

  • 800MW Kusile Unit 5 ramping up to full commercial operation by the end of June 2024 after being synced to the grid at the end of December 2023
  • 800MW Medupi Unit 4 returning to service by July 2024 following repairs after a catastrophic hydrogen explosion in August 2021
  • 940MW Koeberg Unit 2 returning to service in September 2024 after the replacement of its steam generators and long-term refuelling

These units should contribute an extra 2,540MW of capacity to the grid by the fourth quarter of 2024.

This is equivalent to the amount of power shed from the grid with around two and a half stages of load-shedding.

“If you add that all up, it’s not insignificant,” Yelland said.

Aside from the three units expected to start feeding power into the grid this year, Kusile Unit 6 is also slated to be synchronised to the grid for the first time in August 2024.

If all goes well with its testing, it should deliver its full commercial load by February 2025, adding another 800MW of capacity.

Medupi unit 4 exploded due to technician error and has been out of commission since August 2021, costing roughly 800MW of generating capacity.

Yelland does not expect the energy availability factor (EAF) of Eskom’s remaining fleet to improve or decline dramatically in the year ahead.

He believes if Eskom can stabilise the EAF at its current levels between 50–60%, then it will have done “quite well”.

“If the performance of the fleet does not decline further and the new generation capacity comes on stream as planned, I expect there to be a lessening of the intensity and severity of load-shedding during the course of the year,” Yelland said.

However, he cautioned it was difficult to give a precise outlook on the levels and timing of load-shedding due to the unpredictability of unplanned breakdowns in Eskom’s ageing fleet.

“I don’t think it will be eliminated. We will go through periods of load-shedding and no load-shedding,” Yelland stated.

Another energy expert and spokesperson for Hohm Energy, Matthew Cruise, expects load-shedding to be roughly the same as in 2023.

“This is significant considering load-shedding over 2023 was double what we experienced in 2022 in terms of gigawatt-hours that were shed from the grid,” Cruise said.

Cruise projected that the country would experience between 20 and 50 days without load-shedding in 2024, compared to the 30 days in 2023.

He said this projection was based on the fact that Eskom’s EAF was likely to remain below 60%.

Cruise also expects load-shedding to continue for the next five years.

In light of this, he recommended that South Africans invest in their own backup power.
“Now is the time to become energy independent with a solar and battery system, as load shedding will continue as it has for the foreseeable future, along with the continual electricity price increases,” Cruise said.

Matthew Cruise, energy expert and Hohm Energy spokesperson

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