Monday, 25 April 2022 11:08

Eskom anticipates between 37 to 101 days of load-shedding this winter.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

South Africa's record power outages last week will likely shock the country’s Q2 GDP growth, say economists at the Bureau for Economic Research (BER).

In a research note on Monday (25 April), the group noted that South Africa hit a new record of 22,000MW of generation capacity unavailable last week, with a 'staggering' 17,000MW of this being unplanned.

"Worryingly, in its assessment for the winter period, Eskom anticipates between 37 to 101 days of load-shedding, the latter in an extreme scenario. If it can limit unplanned breakdowns to below 12,500MW, it could avoid load-shedding," the BER said.

While the exact economic impact of load shedding is hard to quantify, the Western Cape government estimates that load shedding costs South Africa's economy R500 million per stage per day and the Western Cape's economy R75 million per stage per day.

"Sudden and unexpected load shedding is extremely disruptive to all sectors of society, as nobody can plan or make contingency plans in such an unpredictable environment," said Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

Bredell said it is worrying that Eskom is struggling when the Western Cape is preparing for the winter months ahead. "As colder weather sets in over the next few months, we are once again asking people to stay safe when heating their homes with flammable heat sources other than electricity."

Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter said that the risk of a total power blackout across the country was low, despite the risk of more than 100 days of load shedding.

The power utility has warned the country could have more than 100 days of electricity blackouts this year because of outages. However, it has downplayed any fears of a total blackout across the country.

"We have this tool (load shedding) at our disposal. We have significant buffer capacity in the load shedding system before we approximate even close to a total system blackout. The load shedding system provides for a further reduction in load up to Stage 8. We still do have headroom in the system to allow us to avoid a total blackout."

Finance minister Enoch Godongwana, who has been in Washington DC for the Spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank over the past week, has met with both World Bank and the US Treasury to discuss issues of global significance. 

The Spring meetings, which include sideline meetings among finance ministers of the G20, are taking place in the midst of global tensions not experienced since the end of the second World War as Russia’s campaign against Ukraine sinks further into stalemate.

Godongwana met with World Bank president David Malpass. A statement from the bank issued on Saturday said that the two had exchanged views on "the world economy and SA's economic prospects" in which Malpass welcomed SA’s efforts to improve the business climate. 

"Malpass and Godongwana also discussed energy sector reforms and the energy transition, including plans for decommissioning coal-fired power plants and increasing renewable energy sources," according to the statement. 

Meanwhile President Cyril Ramaphosa says government is doing everything in its means to ensure that the current load shedding experienced by the country becomes a thing of the past.

In his weekly newsletter to the nation, the President empathised with South Africans experiencing constant blackouts saying government is determined that this should not continue to be a part of their lives into the future.

"It is difficult and unacceptable for South Africans to endure load shedding. But we are doing everything in our means to ensure that, like state capture, it soon becomes a thing of the past, "the President said.

Ramaphosa noted that last week much of the country experienced load shedding as breakdowns at several of Eskom’s power stations resulted in the loss of substantial generation capacity. 

He said that this costs the economy dearly and causes great frustration among all South Africans and creates hardship for households and businesses.

"A stable and reliable supply of electricity is essential for almost every aspect of our daily lives and a necessary condition for economic growth. That is why we are focused on achieving energy security as one of our foremost priorities," he said.

Even as the country continues to experience crippling load shedding, he said the reality is that much progress has been made towards ending the energy supply challenges.

The President said that it is difficult to expect the millions of South Africans grappling with the inconvenience and hardship caused by intermittent power outages to remain patient as they resolve these longstanding challenges.

"It is difficult to convince them, as they sit in the dark, that we are making progress towards a secure and reliable supply of electricity.

"But the reality is that the energy landscape is being transformed, the problems at Eskom are steadily being addressed and substantial new energy generation capacity is being built," the President said.