Brace for Winter Blackouts: Eskom Warns of Surge in Loadshedding

  • Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, has cautioned that the country’s power system is severely constrained and may face increased stages of loadshedding, potentially reaching up to Stage 8 during the winter period. This is due to breakdowns and unplanned maintenance, with the loss of four major units significantly impacting the grid.
  • Despite the challenges, Eskom’s management is committed to mitigating the impact of loadshedding and improving the performance of Generation coal-based power stations. Efforts are also being made to combat corruption within the organization to foster an uplifting work environment and drive performance improvement.
  • Eskom is advocating for a coordinated effort among all stakeholders to manage the power crisis. The company is also stressing the importance of responsible energy use by South Africans and the role of Demand Side Management interventions in managing the capacity gap in winter and beyond.

In a recent Winter Outlook briefing, South African power utility Eskom warned of a severely constrained power system and an elevated risk of increased loadshedding stages throughout the winter months. Eskom’s forecast suggests that loadshedding may be predominantly implemented at Stage 5, if breakdowns or capacity become unavailable due to unplanned maintenance at 15,000 MW.

Eskom’s Board Chairperson, Mpho Makwana, acknowledged the challenges ahead, urging for a coordinated effort among stakeholders. He recognized the adverse impact of rotational loadshedding on the South African economy and pledged efforts to mitigate its intensity.

“Effective rotational loadshedding during winter months requires a coordinated effort among all stakeholders within a country,” Makwana said, affirming the Board’s support of Eskom’s management in their efforts to improve the performance and extend the life of Generation coal-based power stations.

Makwana emphasized the importance of combating corruption within Eskom, citing its destructive effect on value creation and progress. He highlighted the positive results of collaboration between the internal forensic department, the South African Police Service (SAPS), and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) through National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) streams.

Interim Group Chief Executive Calib Cassim revealed that South Africa had experienced its highest levels of loadshedding in the past financial year, with the energy availability factor (EAF) falling to 56%, against the target of 60%. However, Cassim pointed out some positive developments, including the establishment of NECOM and the development of South Africa’s Energy Action Plan.

The loss of four major power units due to extended outages has exacerbated the current power shortage. Units 1, 2, and 3 of Kusile Power Station are offline due to a failure in October 2022, and Unit 1 at Koeberg Power Station is currently on a long-term outage for maintenance, refuelling, and the replacement of steam generators. These outages have removed 3,080 MW of capacity from the grid, equivalent to three stages of loadshedding.

Eskom Generation Group Executive, Bheki Nxumalo, admitted the persistent struggle with frequent plant breakdowns, leading to higher stages of loadshedding. “We are striving to reduce plant breakdowns to 15,000 MW or below for the winter period to keep loadshedding at lower stages,” said Nxumalo.

Eskom Group Executive for Transmission, Segomoco Scheppers, assured the public that measures are in place to protect the power system from collapsing, including loadshedding. Nevertheless, he cautioned that losses of 18,000 MW or more during the winter could result in loadshedding up to Stage 8.

Monde Bala, Eskom Group Executive for Distribution, stressed the role of Demand Side Management interventions and the responsible use of energy by South Africans in managing the capacity gap in winter and beyond.

The power system remains constrained, with a risk of continuous higher stages of loadshedding in winter. Eskom will continue to heavily rely on the extensive use of open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) to prevent higher stages of loadshedding, particularly during peak times in the morning and evening.

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