As 2020 dawns, energy experts are warning that load shedding will be with us for another five years at least.
Last year was a rough one for South Africa, with some nasty surprises from Eskom in the form of unexpected rolling blackouts.
The utility got a new CEO, Andre de Ruyter, late in the year and he was in place just on time to explain another unexpected round of load shedding that sparked outrage among South Africans.
Load shedding rolled around several times in 2019 and each time it seemed to come as a big surprise.
The first time that darkness descended, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan called the situation “unacceptable and disruptive”.
“What caused this problem… there’s a lot of history to it. Eskom is a very old organisation, so there’s some historical elements, there’s some very recent history that Eskom has been through during the state capture period but it’s a reality many would like to deny, but it’s a reality we’re confronted with every single day.”
It’s not just legacy issues that were weighing on Eskom. At the time, low coal supplies, low dam storage levels at hydro plants as well as the natural disaster in Mozambique, Cyclone Idai, were all blamed for the situation.
Ten months later, and there’s more unexpected load shedding and a brief meander into the as yet unseen stage six power cuts.
This time, government blamed sabotage.
“What has also come out as a great concern is that there has been a measure of sabotage, sabotage has led to the loss of during this period of 2,000MW.”
Energy expert Ted Blom said that load shedding was likely to be our reality for at least the next five years.
“That’s my estimate of how long it will take for Eskom to sort out their coal problems as well as how long it will take them to sort out their maintenance backlog.”
The power utility said that it did not plan to load shed areas over the festive season, but warned that the system remained constrained and the risk of load shedding remained.