Last year saw more hours of load shedding in a single year than South Africa has ever experienced before.

The bad news is that things are unlikely to get better anytime soon with the year-on-year decrease in Eskom’s power output capability pointing to more dark days in our future.

How much load shedding do we endure?

10% of the year

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) report paints a bleak picture of the state of South Africa’s power utility. According to the report, 2020 South Africans experienced load shedding for nearly 10% of the year.

“In 2020, load shedding occurred for 859 hours of the year (9.8%) with an upper limit of 1 798 GWh relative to actually achieved energy shed of 1 269 GWh,” the CSIR said.

To be fair, my first thought was that can’t be possible because it didn’t feel any worse than in previous years. However part of the reason is probably that last year was unlike anything we’ve dealt with before.

We braved a killer virus and many of us had to adapt to working from home almost overnight. Added to this it seems the majority of the load shedding last year happened before the lockdown.

63% load shedding before lockdown

According to CSIR, 63% of last years load shedding happened before the lockdown even started. In all likelihood, this means that the lockdown probably spared us a lot more load shedding.

The shutting down of large parts of the economy would likely have had a major impact on Eskom’s demand. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, Eskom’s available power is decreasing each year.

In the context of our ailing economy and rising inequality, there is simply no excuse for the current state of Eskom as it continues to put the future of the country at risk.

Eskom out of control

According to the report, South Africa’s available power has decreased from 71% in 2018 to 66.9% in 2019 and dropping further to 65% in 2020.

The alarming reality of the load shedding situation is that Eskom are largely out of control of the situation. If load shedding was happening in a structured way that enabled maintenance South Africans would likely be more forgiving.

As it stands, though, of the lost output capability last year, just 11.2% of it was as a result of planned maintenance with 20.9% attributed to unplanned outages.

With the announcement that the current load shedding will be extended until Sunday, it’s hard to be optimistic about the rest of the year. It seems as though the country returning to business as usual will be bad news for the load shedding forecast for the year.

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Presh JM Reporter

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