Eskom currently finds itself in the midst of its most dire predicament to date as it concedes that load shedding will be a burden on the South African public for at least the next two years. This according to energy analyst Chris Yellend, who said that the embattled power supplier is now engulfed in a “code red” battle to provide the nation with electricity.
Eskom have been forced to implement a severe round of load shedding that has been persistently extended since it returned over a week ago, and with the county now damned to darkness until Wednesday 17 March at the very least, Yellend predicts that things will only get worse.
Load shedding to continue for the foreseeable future
Speaking to eNCA on Monday 15 March, Yellend said that the message coming from Eskom in recent days suggests that South Africans would do well to buckle up and prepare for a lengthy period of load shedding. The power supplier have cited a severely diminished emergency electricity supply on their latest need to switch off the lights for ever increasing portions of the day.
“Eskom has been giving us the message loud and clear that there’s going to be load shedding for the next two years,” said Yellend, who said that the company had actually been afforded a fair amount of respite by the ramifications of COVID-19, “because the demand for electricity reduced quite considerably over the year by about 5%”.
“This year – as the economy starts to pick up – we don’t have that saving grace,” he said. “Because of that, we can expect to have load shedding on-and-off on a fairly regular basis. If you look at Eskom’s website, their projections suggest that it is ‘code red’ – at least for the next few weeks.”
Infrastructure maintenance ‘actually worsens situation’
Yellend said that when all is said and done, the glaring issue Eskom is faced with is their “ageing and unreliable infrastructure” – a term that has become a resolute staple on each and every one of the press releases issued by the company when they deliver more grim announcements of imminent restrictions ready to be reintroduced.
“Its a combination of the same old thing – the old plants are getting older and breaking down regularly. This is normal when you have an old plant that is being pushed hard and hasn’t been maintained properly,” said Yellend.
“Right now, if we do more maintenance, it actually worsens the situation in the short term because it takes generation units off the grid. It’s still very necessary, of course.”
Baring more bad news, Yellend said that in addition to these problems, the newer plants built by Eskom are not performing as they should be either.
“There are units at Medupa and Kusile that are down. These plants are called ‘base-load supply plants’, and they’re supposed to be running continuously with a very high availability factor. We should be expecting them to be running with an energy availability factor of around 90%,” he explained.
“The reality though, is that they are running at around 65-75%. It’s performing like an old plant.”
On Monday, Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer urged the public to prepare themselves for regular periods of load shedding for ‘the next six months’ as they battle to rmeedy a situation that they are seemingly beginning to lose their grip on.