Eskom

Despite Covid-induced demand slump, load-shedding surpasses 2019 levels and risk of more cuts rises

Despite Covid-induced demand slump, load-shedding surpasses 2019 levels and risk of more cuts rises

Photo by Creamer Media

12TH AUGUST 2020

BY: TERENCE CREAMER
CREAMER MEDIA EDITOR

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The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) reported on Wednesday that load-shedding during 2020 had already surpassed that of 2019, which had hitherto been the country’s worst-ever year for load-shedding.

In addition, it again warned that, absent urgent action, the risk of load-shedding would worsen and persist for at least two more years, but possibly to 2025.

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The CSIR released its latest load-shedding analysis as Eskom issued a fresh alert on August 12, warning that the system was severely constrained, owing to a combination of delays in returning five units to service and the breakdown of two additional units, at a time when unplanned maintenance stood at 11 000 MW and planned maintenance at 5 500 MW.

By August 13, it had resumed load-shedding following a short hiatus.

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Days earlier, CEO Andre de Ruyter told the Cape Town Press Club that the risk of load-shedding would persist deep into 2021.

The CSIR analysis, compiled by Dr Jarrad Wright and Joanne Calitz, shows that load-shedding for the year to date stood at 1 383 GWh, or 661 hours of outages.

The figure was already higher than the 1 352 GWh shed in 2019, which was regarded as the country’s most intensive year of load-shedding, with Eskom having taken the unprecedented step of declaring Stage 6, or 6 000 MW of cuts, on December 9.

Load-shedding had re-emerged despite Eskom having performed opportunistic maintenance on its coal fleet in March and April, following a sharp slump in demand that coincided with South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Wright told participants to a webinar hosted jointly by the CSIR and GreenCape that, during the country’s Level 5 lockdown, peak demand slumped to 27.4 GW against an expectation of 31.2 GW, while minimum demand fell precipitously to only 13.8 GW.

Demand had since returned, along with the threat of load-shedding, with the rotational cuts instituted in July pushing it to levels higher than those experienced last year.

Overall, the Eskom expects that residual electricity demand will reduce by 12 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2020, to about 209 TWh, relative to forecasted residual demand of 221 TWh for the year.

The CSIR had also modelled the impact on security of supply in the “likely” scenario that both demand and the energy availability factor (EAF) of Eskom’s fleet remain below the assumptions used in the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019 (IRP 2019).

Eskom's EAF for the year to date was only 66.1%, representing a deterioration from the EAF of 66.9% recorded in 2019 and was also well below both Eskom's internal target of 70%.

Using a demand forecast of 267 TWh by 2025 as opposed to the 284 TWh assumed in the IRP 2019 and an EAF of 64% as opposed to the 75.5% assumed in the official plan, the analysis points to major capacity and severe energy shortages for the period to 2025.

The capacity supply gap would range between 5 000 MW and 8 000 MW, while the yearly energy gap would be between 500 GWh in the outer years to as high as 4 500 GWh in 2022.

Should such energy shortages arise, the yearly economic costs are estimated at between R60-billion and R120-billion, based on a cost of unserved energy of R87.50/kWh.

Wright said that “critical decisions and actions” were required to address the risk, including:

  • addressing the regulatory constraints to self-generation by businesses, municipalities and households;
  • renegotiating the power purchase agreements with existing wind and solar farms to mop up any excess supply that is available;
  • accelerating the implementation of the Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme (RMPPP); and
  • implementing the IRP 2019.

Enabling a “customer response at scale” by incentivising demand and supply responses by consumers and easing the regulations governing self-generation would have an “immediate impact” on reducing the risk of load-shedding.

Projects associated with the RMPPP and procurement in line with the Ministerial determinations that have followed the publication of the IRP 2019 would, by contrast, only begin to have an impact in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

It is understood that bid documentation associated with the RMPPP could be released within days and that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa has now concurred with the Ministerial determinations that will enable the procurement of new utility-scale generators.

“This is a crisis and we recommend dealing with it by ensuring the capacity under construction, including Medupi, Kusile and the utility-scale renewables plants, is delivered as planned and that Eskom acts to recover its fleet EAF to realistic levels, while ensuring value for money relative to the supply alternatives,” Wright said.

The risk of load-shedding could be reduced in the short- and medium-term, he added, by taking steps to unlock self-generation, by procuring additional capacity and energy through the RMPPP and through starting to implement the IRP 2019 in earnest. 

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