There will likely be no more load shedding this weekend, Eskom says, after blackouts resumed this week- but that respite seems unlikely to last according to Eskom, the latest round of load shedding is due to “an increase in generation unit breakdowns”, as well as planned maintenance.
“No one knows for certain if load shedding will be necessary, not even Eskom” says Yelland. It depends on the randomness of breakdowns. However, Eskom can make prediction based on their experience. The likelihood of rationing is despite demand for electricity being lower in 2020 than in 2008, “That’s because of a weaker economy, and rising electricity prices which means people are more likely to use energy such as gas” he says
However, there is a lot happening over the short term and long term that make further blackouts more likely, and means they will probably keep on happening for at least another 18 months. In the short term, Eskom’s availability generating capacity usually declines over summer. The basic reason is that demand for power is lower, so Eskom typically schedules its maintenance for the warmer months. Yelland says that “Eskom’s available power is usually lowest between December 15 and January 15″
Unfortunately, there is also an increase risk of unplanned outages during the summer. The warmer air can impact Eskom’s dry-cooled power stations, such as Medupi near Lephalale, and Kusile near Balmoral. “Think of a power station that produces 600MW. Because it is getting too hot, it can now only produce 500MW” says Yelland. It is also like a car overheating, you cannot run them flat out. If Medupi and Kusile two of Eskom’s largest power stations have 10% less output, that means there is a lot less power generated.
The power utility is embarking on a massive maintenance program over the next few months, although the exact dates are nit known; the reliability maintenance program as it is called was originally scheduled for earlier this year but was delayed due to lockdown.