Stage 6 load shedding has been implemented due to the growing gap between the increased demand for electricity and Eskom’s decreased generational capacity.
The sudden jump to stage 6 load shedding may have come as a shock to many South Africans after a relatively stable winter, but many factors contributed to this change.
Why are we on stage 6?
After a brief reprieve, in which South Africans finally experienced a few hours without load shedding for the first time in months, the country has been plunged back into darkness since Wednesday, 12 July 2023, for stage 6 load shedding.
As always, several factors contributed to this sudden jump in stages. This includes the unexpected loss of additional generating units, the ample use of Open Gas Cycle Turbines and the inability to replenish pumped storage dam levels.
Although we have managed to get through most of winter without high-stage load shedding thus far, it seems as though the recent cold snap, which moved through the country, has increased the demand beyond what Eskom can reliably supply.
To make matters worse, further breakdowns since Sunday have negatively impacted Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF). This means that the power reserves for this week have already been depleted. And this is why we are now permanently on stage 6 since 05:00 on 14 July 2023.
Did the cold weather really drive up demand that much?
Eskom can only reliably supply about 28,000MW of electricity, but the end-user demand climbed to over 33,000MW with the recent drop in temperatures throughout the country.
This has left the state-owned utility with a shortfall of about 6,000MW compared to the previous 1,000 to 2,000MW shortfall. This is why the rolling blackouts needed to be increased so suddenly.
Load shedding could reach stage 8 or upwards in the near future
If Eskom’s EAF continues to decline because of plant breakdowns which affect generational capacity and other interventions (like the open-cycle gas turbines) failing, then another spike in demand (or a miscalculation on Eskom’s part) could push us to stage 8 or stage 9 load shedding this winter.
How long will the stage 6 load shedding last?
Although officials, like the Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, have maintained that the interventions to improve Eskom’s EAF are paying off, this round of stage 6 load shedding is set to continue until further notice.
Even though the stage 6 load shedding was meant to be alternated with stage 4 between 07:00 and 14:00, initially – this was seemingly still not good enough to make up for the ever-increasing power shortfall. We may even be experiencing stage 6 all day, every day for some time (and certainly for the rest of the weekend).