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    Energy experts warn of more load shedding in winter

    March 27, 2023 - Yogashen Pillay


      Durban - While Eskom yesterday announced lower load-shedding stages over the next few days, energy experts have warned that the public should not be lulled into a false sense of security as the winter demand for electricity would see power cuts being ramped up.

      Energy expert Clyde Mallinson said that one of the reasons for the current lower stages of load shedding was a lower demand for electricity.

      “According to data, we have also seen an improvement in the coal fleet capacity factor which is another reason we are seeing lower stages of load shedding.”

      Mallinson added that the winter months remained a concern as there would be a higher demand for electricity.

      “During the summer months, Eskom has performed maintenance at power stations – load shedding is implemented to perform planned maintenance.

      “During the winter months, we do notice an easing of the planned maintenance as there is a much higher demand for electricity from the public which includes more use of heaters.

      “All resources are devoted to supplying electricity as there is higher peak point demand for electricity from the public. The less planned maintenance coupled with the higher demand for electricity will result in higher stages of load shedding over the winter.”

      Lungile Mashele, an energy economist, said that the improved Energy Availability Factor (EAF) had led to lower stages of load shedding.

      “The energy available factor was at 58% on Friday. We also noted the Unplanned Capability Loss Factor (UCLF) at Eskom plants also improved, which is positive news. Planned Capability Loss Factor (PCLF) at Eskom plants, which is the implementation of load shedding to perform planned maintenance, has also been reduced. However, this is due to the beginning of the easing off of planned maintenance.”

      The long weekend also eased electricity demand last week, she said.

      Mashele added that the country had not seen the end of load shedding.

      “We have seen lower stages of load shedding but this does not mean that load shedding is coming to an end. We will definitely be having more load shedding during the winter months. We are hopeful that it will not be at higher levels than we have already seen this year.”

      David Lipschitz, an energy resilience expert and author of the book The Last Blackout, said that Eskom was probably doing less long-term maintenance which was why there was reduced load shedding.

      “The other reason that load shedding is being reduced is that statistics indicate that wind farms owned by Eskom in the Eastern Cape have been running well. This has probably led to another 2 gigawatts of wind power at the moment.”

      Lipschitz concurred with the other analysts that due to increased demand, one could expect a lot more load shedding over winter.

      “At this stage I would have to say that with an increase in demand for electricity we can expect stage 4 to stage 8 constant load shedding during the winter months.”

      Dr Leigh Jarvis, an academic with the School of Engineering and director of an electrical research centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that Eskom generating units were ageing and needed maintenance.

      “I think because of the maintenance that has been carried out over the summer months we have seen a decrease in load shedding. However, we have to remember when Eskom does have unplanned breakdowns this does lead to more load shedding.”

      Jarvis added that more independent power producers coming online, supplying at least 100 megawatts of power, was good news.

      Eskom announced yesterday that Stage 1 load shedding would be implemented until 5am this morning, thereafter Stage 2 would kick in until 4pm. From 4pm, Stage 3 load shedding would commence until 5am on Tuesday.

      “Breakdowns have increased to 15 777MW of generating capacity while 6 122MW of generating capacity is out of service for planned maintenance.

      “Over the past 24 hours three generation units were returned to service at Duvha, Kendal and Kriel power stations. In the same period, a generating unit at Kendal, Kriel and Majuba power stations were taken offline for repairs. The delays in returning units to service at Duvha, Hendrina, Kriel, Majuba, Medupi and Tutuka power stations continue.”



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