Sun. May 19th, 2019

Report suggests that load shedding is about to get much worse in SA

Eskom load sheddingAs Eskom’s old units go offline and the cost to replace generational capacity soars, the severity of load shedding may well increase over the next decade.

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If we think we’ve had it bad with load shedding this year, we should brace ourselves for the decade ahead. That’s the message coming from Bloomberg on Monday after they published the results of their investigation into Eskom’s generational capacity. Change is on the horizon, but things aren’t looking up.

Why load shedding may get worse in South Africa

According to the publication, the oldest power stations still in operation will have to be shut down over the next 10 years. Both Komati and Camden are over 50 years old, with Grootvlei, Arnot and Hendrina fast-approaching that mark. Taking these stalwarts off the grid will dramatically reduce capacity quicker than it can be restored.

For those pinning hopes on the new builds, they aren’t exactly the “silver bullet” solution that is often touted by energy officials. Medupi and Kusile are both running behind schedule and have both experienced major maintenance issues in their two-year existences. The plants don’t boast the capacity of Komati and Camden, either.

How much power Eskom could lose by 2030

As the old units go offline and Eskom – who are hamstrung by an estimated R419 billion debt – attempt to plug the gap, there could be a shortfall of 25% by 2030. South African would, therefore, have to manage with about a quarter of its power supply lost to the ages.

The cost of correcting the output imbalance is estimated to total $71 billion. At the current exchange rate, that would break the R1trn mark. Despite the recent receipt of generous loan agreements from Brics, their amounts are just a drop in the debt-filled ocean. And, of course, Eskom will be expected to return the money owed to their creditors.

Plans to end the load shedding nightmare

One solution to the potential crisis could shift responsibility to the South African public. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan suggested last week that his department and Eskom will work together to make citizens more aware of their electricity consumption.

In other words, Gordhan is keen to get South Africans saving every watt of electricity possible. Much like we’ve seen with the water shedding efforts in the drought-stricken Western Cape, the powers that be would be keen to encourage consumers to use their electrical appliances sparingly.

The units at Kriel, Matla, Medupi and Kusile are all set to benefit from an increase in capacity this winter, meaning that a further 2 350MW will be added to South Africa’s electricity grid. The utility is also looking to secure more “targeted investment” and speed-up maintenance projects at facilities across the country.

These plans have been largely dismissed by the more cynical energy experts in the country, though. Ted Blom has accused Pravin Gordhan of ignorance after the minister vowed to limit any load shedding in 2019 to Stage 1 – it’s a move Blom believes is tantamount to sabotage, and putting a cap on the constraints could cause a “grid meltdown”.

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