South Africa Faces Winter Energy Crisis as Load Shedding Escalates to Stage 4

Eskom Loadshedding

South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, has announced that load shedding will be escalated to stage 4 on Thursday (30 March) due to increased pressure on the grid. The revised load shedding schedule, which is set to continue through the weekend, is a matter of concern for South Africans, especially as the country approaches its winter months, when electricity demand is expected to surge.

  1. Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, announced that load shedding will be escalated to stage 4 on Thursday (30 March) due to increased pressure on the grid. The revised load shedding schedule will continue through the weekend, raising concerns as the country approaches its winter months, when electricity demand is expected to surge.
  2. Eskom’s capacity constraints continue to worsen, with breakdowns accounting for 15,089MW of lost generating capacity, while planned maintenance has taken an additional 7,147MW of capacity out of service. Delays in servicing units and maintenance at Eskom’s nuclear power station, Koeberg, have added to the pressure on the grid.
  3. The escalating load shedding highlights the urgency for South Africa to invest in alternative and reliable energy sources. It also underscores the need for Eskom to improve its maintenance processes and overall efficiency to better serve the country’s growing energy demands during critical periods, such as the winter months.

The updated schedule for load shedding is as follows:

Wednesday, 29 March:

  • Stage 1: until 16h00
  • Stage 2: 16h00 to 00h00

Thursday, 30 March:

  • Stage 2: 00h00 to 05h00
  • Stage 3: 05h00 to 16h00
  • Stage 4: 16h00 to 00h00

Friday, 31 March:

  • Stage 4: 00h00 to 05h00
  • Stage 3: 05h00 to 00h00

Saturday, 1 April:

  • Stage 3: 00h00 to 05h00
  • Stage 2: 05h00 to 00h00

Sunday, 2 April:

  • Stage 2: 00h00 to 05h00
  • Stage 1: 05h00 to 16h00
  • Stage 2: 16h00 to 00h00

Eskom reported that breakdowns currently account for 15,089MW of lost generating capacity, while planned maintenance has taken an additional 7,147MW of capacity out of service. Over the past 24 hours, a generation unit was returned to service at the Duvha Power Station. However, units at Lethabo, Kendal, and Kriel were taken offline for repairs during the same period. Compounding capacity constraints, delays in servicing units at Hendrina, Medupi, and two units at Tutuka have been observed.

Additionally, five Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) at Ankerlig Power Station were taken out of service this morning for a planned upgrade of their control system. Delays in maintenance at Eskom’s sole nuclear power station, Koeberg, have also raised concerns. Alan Winde, premier of the Western Cape province, noted that as South Africa heads into winter, the delay in Koeberg’s maintenance could exacerbate energy shortages, leading to daily power cuts to prevent a complete blackout.

Koeberg plant, located north of Cape Town, was initially expected to resume operations in June, in time for winter. However, this deadline has now been pushed back to September. Consequently, Eskom’s grid will face significant pressure during the winter months, with analysts warning that load shedding may be further escalated, possibly beyond the current schedules.

Earlier this month, Virtual Energy and Power director Clyde Mallinson cautioned South Africans to brace for a cold, dark winter. Mallinson warned that Eskom must raise its coal fleet’s capacity factor (CF) to at least 50% to prevent high levels of load shedding during the winter months. If Eskom fails to achieve this, South Africa could experience stage 6 load shedding or higher during the peak of winter in June.

Mallinson highlighted that Eskom’s coal fleet only managed to operate at a 40% CF in February. If this performance persists in June, load shedding may need to be escalated to stage 11, a level not yet included in the existing schedules.

Eskom is currently collaborating with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to establish new load shedding schedules in response to these challenges.

The escalating load shedding and ongoing capacity constraints underscore the urgency for South Africa to invest in alternative and reliable energy sources. It also highlights the need for Eskom to improve its maintenance processes and overall efficiency to better serve the country’s growing energy demands during critical periods, such as the winter months.

Revised load shedding schedule:

DateStage
Wednesday1
Wednesday2
Thursday2
Thursday3
Thursday4
Friday4
Friday3
Saturday3
Saturday2
Sunday2
Sunday1
Sunday2

Capacity constraints:

  • Breakdowns: 15,089MW of lost generating capacity
  • Planned maintenance: 7,147MW of capacity out of service

Delays in servicing units and maintenance at Eskom’s nuclear power station, Koeberg, have added to the pressure on the grid.

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