/ 27 September 2023

Eskom trying to cap load-shedding at stage four for summer

Eskom Nersa22
Johannesburg is submerged in darkness during load-shedding . (AFP)

Eskom’s acting chief executive, Calib Cassim, says the power utility plans to cap load-shedding at stage four this summer, including over the festive season.

Speaking at Eskom’s State of the System briefing on Wednesday, Cassim said the utility plans to keep capacity losses caused by breakdowns below 14 500 megawatts during the summer period. 

“The most common load-shedding stage experienced under this scenario will be stage four, with between 11 and 19 days of load-shedding every month,” he said

Cassim said that if performance keeps improving, the demand side can be managed and there is a better outlook for the country in 2024. 

“However, if breakdowns exceed this [14 500 megawatts] — pushing to 16 000 megawatts for example — load-shedding will be more frequent and at higher stages,” he said.

Head of transmission Segomoco Scheepers put it another way, saying that should breakdowns be restricted to below 14 500 megawatts during summer, there would be 116 days of load-shedding across the 213 days until the end of March.

“Should breakdowns rise to 16 000 megawatts or 17 500 megawatts, however, the number of load-shedding days would rise to 187 and 211 respectively, while the intensity of the cuts would be between stage five and seven,” he said.

Cassim said South Africa got through the winter months better than expected, with lower-than-planned demand and improved generating capacity.

“Average unplanned losses over the evening peaks were at 16 420 megawatts compared to 16 554 megawatts in the previous winter,” he said.

This is despite load-shedding being implemented for 153 days during winter, with stage six load-shedding implemented on 39 of those days.

Kusile power station

Eskom’s head of generation, Bheki Nxumalo, said the power utility was “ahead of schedule” in terms of returning Kusile power station units, which would help decrease load-shedding stages.

“The units are ready for commissioning,” he said. There may be “teething issues” because they have not been working for about a year, he added.

Kusile units were switched off after the collapse of a flue gas duct at unit one last year. This was caused by an ash buildup inside the pipe, which affected the operations of units two and three.

This led to a loss of about 2 100 megawatts of generation capacity — equivalent to two to three stages of load shedding.

He said unit three is expected to return to service by 14 October, ahead of the end of November schedule. 

Nxumalo said the return of the three units will enable Eskom to add 2 880 megawatts in the next three months.

“This should be enough to offset nearly three stages of load-shedding,” he said.

Eskom also expected to secure 1 500 megawatts from the troubled Tutuka power station; it had only one unit operating during most of the winter months.

Nxumalo said that three Tutuka units are operating and producing 1 600 megawatts. 

He added that Duvha and Majuba power stations were showing progress, but said Kendal still required attention.