South Africa’s energy supply crisis worsened significantly in 2022 – especially in the second half of the year – and things could get worse still.
This is according to research by the Energy Research Centre at the CSIR, which has found that Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) – a measure of its plant performance – hit an historic low in 2022, while 2023 is off to a dire start.
From Eskom boasting a “very impressive” EAF for decades – it was typically above 80% or even 90% between the 1970s and the 1990s – the weekly EAF late last year plunged below 50% for the first time.
Principal researcher Warrick Pierce said if additional capacity is not added to the grid, South Africa’s energy crisis will continue to spiral, particularly if the EAF of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations also continues to deteriorate — and there is no sign thus far that it is stabilising.
Pierce said if Eskom’s EAF hadn’t been allowed to deteriorate, and was still at 80% or 90%, there would be no load shedding in South Africa. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind have not been added to the grid sufficiently quickly to offset the decline in Eskom’s EAF.
Planned maintenance continues at about 10% of capacity, but there has been a big increase in unplanned breakdowns. Pierce suggested this was due to insufficient maintenance of the ageing coal-fired fleet.
“We are seeing an increase in breakdowns, which is worsening the crisis,” he said. Since 2018 there has been exponential growth in load shedding, with a “significant step change” seen last year (see the two graphs above).
“Last year was by far the most load shedding-intensive year we have had. Before last year, most of the load shedding happened in stage 2. In 2022, the most prevalent [load shedding] was in stage 4,” he said. And much of that happened in the second half of the year.
There is no sign yet of stabilisation in Eskom’s EAF, and until that happens it is difficult to forecast when South Africa is likely to emerge from the current electricity supply crisis. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media