Is the return of loadshedding imminent?

  • South Africans have enjoyed around four weeks without loadshedding.
  • Eskom has maintained its generation capacity, brought online more generation units and increased its renewable energy generation.
  • Recently the utility has been using more diesel-powered generators as demand increases almost beyond availability.

South Africans have enjoyed being loadshedding-free since the Easter long weekend at the end of March, but as temperatures begin to dip in Autumn, and demand for electricity begins to increase can the utility continue its stretch of postponing rolling blackouts?

According to the Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, per SA News, a series of interventions launched by Eskom are starting to work, which is the reason why electricity generation has been maintained and loadshedding has been kept at bay.

These interventions include improvements of power plant conditions, increased governance controls, aggressive cost-cutting, environmental compliance, and achieving adequate coal stocks, among others. Eskom has also increased planned maintenance, and has been working to bring more offline generating units back online and producing.

This, together with more electricity generated from renewable sources than ever before, has maintained Eskom’s availability above the demand. But with Eskom’s myriad issues, including old and ailing power stations and temperatures across the country beginning to dip, the utility has recently had to use expensive diesel-powered generators to maintain availability.

According to its latest breakdown from Tuesday 9th April, Eskom has been using seven open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT), and availability sat at 28 707MW against a demand of 27 942MW.

With demand just 765MW under availability, and seven OCGTs in use, it is likely that Eskom will have to implement at least some loadshedding if temperatures continue to fall. This just may be the case, as per the South African Weather Service, temperatures in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Free State, and some areas in the Eastern Cape will dip as the week progresses.

In Johannesburg, temperatures as high as 21 degrees and as low as 10 degrees are expected for Friday. With more people staying indoors and using heating appliances due to the low temperatures, Eskom will either have to use more OCGTs to stave off loadshedding, or be forced to at least go into Stage 1 or 2, if not higher, by the weekend.

The utility’s use of OCGTs this early into the week may also mean that the return of loadshedding is imminent, as their use necessitates Eskom to dip into its supplies of diesel and pumped water. If these supplies become low, loadshedding is implemented to ensure their recovery.

[Image – Photo by David Tomaseti on Unsplash]


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