South Africa’s load shedding crisis laid bare

The CSIR has painted a bleak picture of the state of Eskom and energy supply in South Africa.

The state-owned science research agency on Tuesday published its annual statistics on power generation in South Africa for 2021, which includes all utility-scale generation technologies – coal, nuclear, hydro, solar PV, wind, concentrated solar power (CSP), pumped storage and diesel-fuelled open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).

Despite an increase in the contribution from renewable energy sources in 2021, last year overtook 2020 as the most intensive year of load shedding to date (see charts below).

“In 2021, the total system demand increased by 6.5 terawatt-hours, a 3% increase compared to the 2020 total system demand,” the CSIR said in a statement. “The 2021 total system demand is, however, still lower by 5.3TWh, a 2% decrease, when compared to 2019, pre-lockdown.”

Coal still dominated the South African energy mix, providing 81.4% of the total system load. The contribution of renewable energy technologies (wind, solar PV and CSP) increased in 2021 to a total of 5.7GW of installed capacity and provided 6.6% of the total energy mix.

However, the Eskom fleet’s energy availability factor, or EAF, continued its declining trend in 2021, with an average EAF of 61.8% for 2021, compared to the EAF of 65% for 2020, 66.9% for 2019 and 71.9% for 2018. This contributed significantly to load shedding in 2021.

“[Last year] overtook 2020 as the most intensive year of load shedding to date, with load shedding concentrated in October and November, and dominated by stage-2 load shedding overall,” the CSIR said. In 2021, load shedding occurred for 1 169 hours (about 13% of the time).

Source: CSIR
Source: CSIR
Source: CSIR
Source: CSIR
Source: CSIR

Other key findings of the report include:

  • In 2023, South Africa had 53.7GW of wholesale/public nominal capacity. Coal was 39.3GW; nuclear was 1.9GW; diesel (OCGT) was 3.4GW; hydro was 0.6GW and pumped storage was 2.7GW; wind was 3GW; solar PV was 2.2GW; and CSP was 0.5GW. Some 1.36GW of coal capacity, 528MW of wind farms and 180MW of utility-scale solar PV became operational in 2021.
  • Coal contributed 81.4% of system demand in 2021, followed by 5.4% from nuclear, 11.9% from renewable energy (excluding hydro this was 6.7%) and 1.4W% from diesel.

The graphs above from the CSIR report show in detail the challenges South Africa has in addressing the energy shortfall. The full CSIR report can be found here.  — (c) 2022 NewsCentral Media