South Africans are facing the threat of stage 8 loadshedding as Eskom struggles to gather enough finances to fix numerous defects across its power plants.
Eskom is currently in need of R594 million to repair defects at its Medupi power station in Limpopo, while already needing R2.5 billion to fix previous damage to the power plant after an explosion last year, as reported by Businesstech.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha reported that “the cost of fixing the [design] defects is at R594 million for the Medupi project. The liability is still to be determined”.
An independent energy analyst, Mike Rossouw, gives the grim prediction that South Africa “could soon see stage 8 loadshedding, with power station breakdowns occurring so frequently that Eskom is unable to predict energy availability for a few hours ahead.”
Rossouw further says that “Eskom is focusing so much on breakdowns and so little on maintenance they don’t have a clue what’s happening that’s why we have levels 1, 2 and 3.”
According to Rossouw’s predictions, stage 8 loadshedding could see South Africans without power for up to 12 hours a day.
“The current energy availability factor for the entire fleet is probably 50% or less. Maintenance hardly gets to 10% maybe 7%, and breakdowns account for 20% or more. So your breakdowns are more than double the maintenance,” he said.
Rossouw sees no sign of recovery. He notes that 2022’s loadshedding is worse than ever before and “Eskom has lost control”.
The intermittent loadshedding is also extremely damaging to the country’s economy, as professor Sampson Mamphweli, another energy analyst, told eNCA.
“For each stage of loadshedding, we lose R500 million to the economy (during the week). This is about 3% of GDP over a year.”
Based on the frequent power system breakdowns and the resulting unpredictability of power supply to the country, Mamphweli echoes Rossouw’s concerns about higher loadshedding: “There is a possibility for a higher stage of loadshedding … We could see stage 5 loadshedding soon.
He doesn’t rule out the possibility of stage 8 loadshedding, either.
Pravin Gordhan, Minister for the Department of Public Enterprises, said that Eskom “is taking urgent steps to improve the performance of generation”.
Gordhan further said that “Eskom’s generation is under-performing with the Energy Availability Factor languishing at 58% YTD, as opposed to a target of 75%.”
As for why Eskom is under-performing, Gordhan explains that several instances of cable theft and a serious lack of engineering and technical skills and experience are major causes.