Eskom has underpromised and over-delivered… so far

  • Eskom is nearing 70 percent energy availability for the first time since March 2023.
  • The utility has managed to stave off Stage 8 loadshedding in the winter through improved renewable energy generation, reduced maintenance and usage of diesel generators.
  • Despite this, Eskom’s grid is infamously unstable and there is no promise that low levels of outages will be maintained.

South African power utility Eskom has underpromised and over-delivered so far for the winter season. On Thursday, government declared that Eskom was nearing a power generation efficiency milestone in its continued efforts to reduce blackouts across the country.

According to SA News, Eskom is nearing a 70 percent energy availability now deep into the winter months after quickly adding around 400MW to the grid.

This is in stark contrast to what the utility was saying just a few months ago. In May, Eskom painted a dire picture for winter, and said that the months of June, July and August could potentially see Stage 8 rotational power cuts.

Now in July, loadshedding has been the lowest and mildest it has been all year. And while 2023 has already had more loadshedding hours than any year in the country’s history, Eskom’s current rotations have not passed stage 4 in several weeks.

The utility has managed this with deft usage of its diesel generators, improved renewable energy generation across South Africa, importing power from neighbouring nations, and reducing its maintenance to the bare minimum.

Eskom has also received permission to suspend minimum emission standards at some of its biggest plants, like Kusile. The utility is using this postponement to conduct repairs at the station, but it does have the adverse effect of releasing more pollutants into the atmosphere.

“The postponement will allow Eskom to carry out repairs on the stack that was damaged on 23 October 2022. The power utility will also construct three temporary stacks that are expected to return 2 100 MW of power to the national grid and reduce load-shedding by two levels,” Cabinet explained, adding that customer demand has also been at manageable levels.

“Cabinet also thanked South Africans who continue to use electricity sparingly, especially during peak times. Our combined energy efforts have helped bring about lower stages of load shedding.”

The last time that Eskom reached 70 percent energy availability was in March 2023. Here, South Africans were dealing with Stage 3 loadshedding as the utility lauded its efforts. Very soon after this milestone was reached, Eskom underwent some of its worse power cuts ever in the months of April and May.

While the winter months have not been bitterly dark and cold as Eskom had us all expect, we should not get complacent. Every day that any loadshedding remains is a day that Rands are lost in the already unstable economy, and Eskom’s track record for maintaining any gains it makes are shoddy at best.

We still have the holiday season to contend with, where energy demand sees some of its yearly peaks.

[Image – Photo by Agustin Fernandez on Unsplash]


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