CSIR Offers Update on Loadshedding Statistics and Water Cuts in SA

South Africa

The media briefing, held on 22 February, underlined the intensification of load shedding throughout 2022, highlighting that the majority of rotational cuts have been implemented at Stage 4, which represents 4,000 MW of simultaneous power cuts throughout the country, with statistics confirming an average decline of 59.5% in fleet energy availability factor (EAF) – compared to 61.7% in 2021 and 65% in 2020 – as a result of unplanned outages.

Eskom has been transparent about the fact that we are in an electricity crisis, however, the crisis is actually worsening,” stated Warrick Pierce, Principal Researcher at the CSIR Energy Centre, adding, “Significant intervention is required, or things will continue to get worse. Fortunately, we are seeing the government step in and start to implement plans. Once we can see the EAF stabilize, that would be a good metric to measure improvement.”

The statistics offered during the media briefing included all utility-scale generation technologies, including coal, nuclear, hydropower, solar photovoltaic, onshore wind, concentrated solar power, pumped storage and diesel-fueled open cycle gas turbines.

South Africa’s power generation mix consists primarily of coal-fired power generation, which represents over 80% of the country’s total system load, however, the contribution of renewable energy technologies continued to increase through 2022, representing 6.5% of the energy mix and providing a total of 6.2 GW of installed capacity. Despite an increase in alternative sources of energy, however, total system demand for the country remained at 3 TWh below South Africa’s pre-COVID demand in 2019.

“We’ve moved from a capacity shortage to a capacity and energy shortage crisis,” Pierce continued, noting, “We have a problem where the Eskom fleet is sweating the assets, causing a capacity shortage and increased breakdowns, as a result of unplanned breakdowns, worsening the crisis and reinforcing load shedding.”

With 5,761 GWh of energy shed by September last year, and with the country having implemented Stage 6 loadshedding in 2022 for the first time since 2019, the government has sought to support the stabilization of the country’s energy network through a series of interventions that include closing the prevailing demand gap; improving the performance of Eskom’s coal fleet and procuring additional capacity from alternative sources of supply.

Meanwhile, the briefing highlighted how South Africa’s energy crisis has resulted in water cuts, which has the potential to result in a 17% deficit in water availability for the country by 2030. Energy is needed for the instrumentation in measuring and calculating water levels, with inadequate electricity poised to result in hydraulic inefficiencies, thus resulting in an inability to provide water to supplement both agricultural and municipal demand, with approximately 36% of the country’s population currently lacking access to reliable and safe water sources.

“We need an energy source to get water to the consumers and the communities where it is needed,” stated Odwa Badi, Deputy Director of Reservoirs and Bulk Pipelines at the City of Tshwane’s Metropolitan Municipality, adding, “I think the most important and consequential mandate, is that everyone has the right to access to safe water.”

Serving as South Africa’s principal scientific and research, development, and implementation organizations, CSIR falls under the oversight of The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, and undertakes multidisciplinary research and scientific development to support the country’s national competitiveness in the global economy.

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