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South Africa: end of load shedding in sight?

The break to load shedding has been a welcome relief for South African businesses. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Continued suspension of load shedding is raising hopes that South Africa could be over the worst of its energy troubles which have plagued the country over the last few years

On 12 May, Eskom posted an optimistic update celebrating the “notable and consistent improvements in generation performance that have enabled the continued suspension of load shedding, which has not been implemented for 46 days.”

This streak, it continued, can be attributed to the planned maintenance during the summer period and the implementation of the Generation Operational Recovery Plan which commenced in March 2023. In improving generation performance, Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (UCLF) has reduced from 11,036MW to 10,474MW week-on-week, a performance better than the winter forecast this year which expected unplanned outages to range from 14,000MW to 15,500MW.

The statement also outlined that there has been no increased usage in the Open-Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) this week, and a total of 1,520MW of generating capacity is planned to be returned to service soon.

A positive outlook from the President

President Cyril Ramaphosa, added his own jubilant voice here in newsletter published on 13 May. In the correspondence, the President stated “It is too early to say that load shedding has been brought to an end. However, the sustained improvement in the performance of Eskom’s power stations – as well as the new generation capacity we have added to our energy system – gives us hope that the end of load shedding is in sight.

“A renewed focus by Eskom on maintenance and the return to service of several units is now showing results. Losses due to unplanned outages have reduced by 9% between April 2023 and March 2024, adding the equivalent of 4,400MW of capacity to our national grid. Better maintained and more reliable power stations have increased the country’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF), which is the amount of electricity available from our power stations at any given time. The EAF has been above 60% since April, compared to 53% over the same period last year.”

While the risk of load shedding will likely remain in the background for the foreseeable future, these announcements come as a positive step for a country that has been living in the shadow of an energy crisis which has stifled economic prospects and business potential for years. Certainly, announcements such as the onset of Africa’s largest battery energy storage system and new renewable providers entering the market will help the country in its efforts to return to energy stability.

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