Electricity users in South Africa will have to contend with persistently higher stages of rotational power cuts during the upcoming summer season in spite of a warmer climate and Eskom returning a number of generation units online.
The struggling power utility yesterday warned that the current Energy Availability Factor (EAF) - the percentage of maximum energy generation that a plant is capable of supplying to the electrical grid - was currently hovering around 55%, still very far from the 65% target of this financial year.
Eskom has needed to implement load shedding every day between April 1 and August 31 this year due to insufficient generating capacity to meet demand.
The utility implemented Stage 6 load shedding for 39 of the 153 winter days, with outages averaging between Stage 3 and Stage 4.
The highest intensity of load shedding was implemented during May due to high demand and high unplanned outages, followed by April 2023 due to higher levels of planned and unplanned outages.
Eskom acting group CEO Calib Cassim said they were working to contain load shedding as low as possible, with the aim of not exceeding Stage 4 by maintaining unplanned load losses within the 14 500 MW scenario for the 2023 summer outlook.
However, Cassim warned that the power utility does not rule out load shedding stages rising.
“Our base case of 14 500MW Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor, or unplanned breakdowns, over the summer period shows a maximum of Stage 4 load shedding in terms of the outlook.
“Does it mean we are saying that there’ll be no Stage 6? No we are not saying that. If the unplanned outages increase to the outer scenarios of 17 500MW, then you would utilise Stage 6 to protect the integrity of the grid.”
In its State of the System update yesterday, Eskom unveiled three main scenarios designed to contain load shedding as low as possible in summer.
If unplanned outages are kept under 14 500MW, load shedding should be able to be limited to a maximum of Stage 4 but if breakdowns exceed this and rise up to 16 000MW, stages of load shedding will also increase to Stage 6.
However, the worst case scenario shows that if unplanned outages reach 17 500MW where Eskom loses 3 000MW more than planned, load shedding could intensify to an unprecedented Stage 7.
This is why Eskom committed to increase the amount of available generation, with a specific focus over the summer period by adding 2 880MW from Kusile units 1, 2, and 3, and 720MW from Unit 5 synchronisation.
Eskom head of generation Bheki Nxumalo said progress was being made to recover generation plant performance, especially at Peaking, Camden, while Medupi and Lethabo were showing above 85% consistent EAF performance.
He maintained the commercial operation forecast of November 3 for the return of Koeberg Unit 1 following delays in replacing the steam generators while Koeberg Unit 2 long-term operation outage will start on 7 November.
“I’m very pleased to see we have seen great progress, especially starting with Duvha. The Duvha that we had a year ago that was tripping every day is staying on load now, that's what is creating some stability. So is Majuba and the latest on the block now was Tutuka - you will recall that it was the worst plant in generation,” Nxumalo said.
“While Koeberg steam generator outage is progressing well and is expected to return on the 3rd of November 2023, it will not make a direct impact on increasing available supply as Unit 2 at Koeberg will be taken off shortly after Unit 1’s return.”