South Africa has experienced a shortage or electricity since late 2007. This shortage means that the demand for power is greater than Eskom’s capacity to generate it. The result has been load shedding from time to time especially when some equipment is taken down for maintenance.
In December 2019, Eskom upgraded the load-shedding to stage 4. Stage 4 is the highest degree of load-shedding.
South Africa exports power to neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe.
Eskom is South Africa’s primary electricity supplier.
In March 2019, Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe said that R50bn had been set aside over the next five years for maintenance, in order for the to keep up with electricity demand.
Eskom Power Generation Capacity
Eskom has total nominal capacity of around 44,000 megawatts (MW). Of that, 36,500 MW comes from 15 coal-fired power stations.
Eskom generates more than 90% of South Africa’s power and 40% of the electricity on the African continent.
Eskom also generates power at using
See map of Eskom Power Stations
- Gas Turbines (Peaking – Ankerlig Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) )
- Nuclear (Koeberg Nuclear Power Station )
- Hydro electric (Gariep, Vanderkloof, First Falls, Ncora, Colley Wobbles, Second Falls)
- Wind farm (Sere windfarm)
- Pumped Storage Scheme (Acacia, Port Rex, Ankerlig, Gourikwa)
- Not constructing additional power stations and generators (long term)
- Continuous growth in the number of customers requiring electricity services.
- Taking some generation facilities down for maintenance (repairs)
- Unexpected breakdown of some generation facilities
- Corruption at Eskom with some staff of the company also doing business with the company, a situation of conflict of interest. This drives up costs of power generation. In March 2019, the government said about 3,000 staff at Eskom were suspected to be doing business with the company.
Understanding load-shedding stages
- allowing up to 1000 MW of the national load to be shed.
- Electricity is disconnected 3 times over a four day period for two hours at a time, or
- 3 times over an eight day period for four hours at a time.
- allows for up to 2000 MW of the national load to be shed.
- electricity disconnected 6 times over a four day period for two hours at a time, or
- 6 times over an eight day period for four hours at a time
- allows for up to 3000 MW of the national load to be shed.
- No electricity 9 times over a four day period for two hours at a time, or
- 9 times over an eight day period for four hours at a time.
- allows for up to 4000 MW of the national load to be shed.
- No electricity for 12 times over a four day period for two hours at a time, or
- 12 times over an eight day period for four hours at a time.
In March 2019, it was reported that officials at Eskom had said that the power utility company had started planning for Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding
. Eskom itself has schedules up to Stage 8 but has never implemented these to date.
Effect of load-shedding on South Africa’s economy
Load shedding forces many businesses to invest in expensive alternative power sources such as diesel generators and solar power systems. This drives up the cost of doing business.
Some operators are also forced to close their businesses during load shedding periods.
The actual impact however is not known in figures. In October 2019, Old Mutual Investment Group chief economist Johann Els said
“It is negative in the era when the economy is so weak and struggling to recover; it impacts confidence. But it is difficult to quantify, since mines have not reported how this has affected them. For the past four years, our economy has been struggling to grow beyond 1 percent, so we need all the electricity we can.”