Energy experts suggest South Africans could expect higher stages of load-shedding in the upcoming months.
As load-shedding increased to stage 6 in the past week, now reduced to stages 4 and 5, citizens fear a total grid collapse leading to nationwide blackouts.
Lungile Mashele, an economy expert, clarifies that we experience load-shedding to prevent and avoid the reality of blackouts.
Currently, stage 8 is the highest level of load-shedding, which was given to consumers and municipalities. However, Mashele said stage 8 could be exceeded depending on how much power is removed from the grid.
“You basically have an infinite number of load-shedding stages that you can go through. If you look at stage 1, there’s about 1000MW that Eskom requires of demand to be suppressed, [i.e.] stage 4 is 4000MW, and stage 8 is 8000MW. Now when these stages were implemented in 2007 and 2008, I don’t think we ever thought we were going to get to a point where we reached stage 8 … Stage 8 does not mean blackout. It simply means 8000MW is required for demand suppression.”
Was the Government Warned of Load-shedding?
Mashele said the government was alerted to the possibility of load-shedding back in 1997. The then-CEO of Eskom told parliament if the issues were not addressed at the power utility, it would have problems within the next ten years.
Sure enough, in 2007, South Africans experienced their first round of controlled power outages.
Over the years since 2007, the ruling government made numerous investments in energy projects meant to supplement the power of Eskom.
Mashele said South Africa’s power capacity is at 52 000MW. Adding renewable energy supplies increases the capacity to approximately 60 000MW. However, corruption and lack of maintenance remain at the core of Eskom’s issues.
“The issue is not the supply. The supply is there. It’s Eskom’s fleet that has not been maintained adequately over the last couple of years.”
Problems at Eskom
In recent weeks, civil society organisations and political parties such as the DA are threatening to take legal action against Eskom regarding load-shedding.
Many believe it to be a waste of time and money as everything will remain the same. Even though Mashele shares the same opinion, she considers the step necessary as people are tired of facing numerous difficulties brought on by load-shedding.
“We are not sitting where we’re sitting as a result of an energy crisis. We’re sitting where we are as a result of a political crisis. Perhaps that politics or political crisis needs to be met with equal and perhaps legal force.”
Mashele said the entire Eskom fleet is broken and in desperate need of repair. She said the power utility needs qualified people on board, project management companies, equipment and a lot of funding.
However, citizens are concerned that it will be Christmas for corrupt individuals and syndicates in Eskom if more money gets pumped into the power utility.
DMRE to Oversee Eskom
It was announced that the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Manatshe, will oversee Eskom.
Under the oversight of the Department of Public Enterprises, Eskom has only gone from bad to worse. In the past five years, and under the supervision of the DPE Minister Pravin Gordhan, South Africans have had to endure the highest stages of load-shedding.
Is it a good idea for the DMRE to be given the reins of Eskom? Mashele said one only needs to look at the track record of the two departments.
“If you look at the DPE and its consortium of companies that are under it, whether it’s SAA … Or various entities which have basically failed. If you look at the DMRE … They’ve got entities that are functioning … They still meet their mandates. All that will be happening by Eskom moving to the DMRE is that you have policies happening in one place and the oversight of Eskom in that [same] place.”
She continues by stating Eskom has been failing at the DPE because of the Minister’s lack of oversight and hands-on approach, who believes in giving the CEO and heads of Eskom the ability to act freely. And up until this point, there has been no CEO held accountable for the state Eskom is in today.