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Fact Check — Is it true that load shedding will end in 2024?

Fact Check — Is it true that load shedding will end in 2024?
Power lines near Eskom's Lethabo coal fired power station as the sun rises, near Johannesburg, South Africa, 13 April 2023. South Africa's new Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has hinted that the life of the aging fleet of coal fired power stations may be considered as the country's grapples with an electricity supply shortage forcing the national power supplier Eskom to run daily 'load shedding' cuts around the country to stop the network reaching a total blackout. The country's parliament will have the final decision on the possible extension of the power stations lives. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

In his recent State of the Nation Address President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was ‘confident that the worst is behind us and the end of load shedding is finally within reach’. A few hours later, Eskom announced that it would implement Stage 3, which then ramped up to Stage 6.

Politicians have made many unrealistic promises about when Eskom’s load shedding will end.

A few months ago, on several occasions, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula was adamant that load shedding would be a thing of the past by December 2023.

And Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said load shedding would end within a year, meaning in 2024.

Well, Mbalula and Ramokgopa are wrong.

After 18 days of no load shedding in December, blackouts have returned.

Load shedding has not ended, it is here to stay for years, and here is why.

Eskom is simply not generating enough electricity to meet the demand in South Africa.

In addition, Eskom’s coal-fired power stations still face many unplanned breakdowns, which lessens the available electricity for dispatch.

Daily Maverick has obtained a forecast of the electricity situation compiled by Eskom officials, in which they predict that it is set to be dire in 2024 and 2025.

During this period, South Africa is set to be between Stage 3, the best-case scenario, and Stage 6, the worst-case scenario.

The officials say there will be more demand for electricity as power stations are set to break down, unable to cope with demand.

And this is why load shedding won’t end soon.

What about renewable energy?

Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind have exploded, especially in 2023. And a lot of renewable energy projects have been registered to provide electricity to the national grid.

However, there is one problem.

In provinces such as Western, Eastern and Northern Cape, the infrastructure is insufficient to connect to the grid the electricity generated by renewable energy projects.

So, infrastructure such as high-voltage power lines need to be extended by at least 14,000km by 2032. For context, this is greater than the distance between South Africa and the Bahamas. The infrastructure expansion is needed to be able to connect and transmit solar and wind energy.

This expansion is set to cost R390-billion. Eskom and the government do not have this money.

Even the government’s Integrated Resource Plan says the country will still deal with electricity supply problems until 2030.

This is especially true if the electricity infrastructure is not expanded to accommodate new renewable energy projects. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: How to beat load shedding at home… and other ideas

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Manie Mulder says:

    It’s election year = the facts don’t matter. With loadshedding one of the key issues, what did you expect Mr Fixfokol and his electricity comrade to say?

  • Harro von Blottnitz says:

    That’s a rather light-touch fact-check. Indeed, both Eskom’s MTSAO and the draft IRP predict electricity generation shortfalls till about 2028. However, both work with a constant annual addition of embedded generation of just 800 and 900 MW respectively, whilst South Africans added 3000 MW in 2023. Globally, PV is on a steep exponential growth path. Even if the grid is constraining, South Africans will simply add PV and batteries where they are needed, at the end of the powerline.

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