South Africa should brace itself for exponential increases to load-shedding until 2022.
This is according to research conducted by Dr Jarrad Wright and Joanne Calitz of the CSIR, who were presenting their findings in a presentation entitled “Setting up for the 2020s: Addressing South Africa’s electricity crisis and getting ready for the next decade… and now COVID-19”.
Wright said that South Africans should expect heavy load-shedding to continue for at least two to three years – depending on the key decisions and actions taken by the relevant entities.
Not only will load-shedding continue over the next few years – it will get significantly worse.
According to the updated Energy Availability Factor (EAF) and demand forecast at which Wright and Calitz arrived, South Africa should expect over 4,500GWh of load-shedding in 2022, compared to the 1,352GWh the country suffered in 2019.
2019 saw the worst power cuts the country had ever experienced, with the country at one point reaching stage 6 load-shedding.
The updated forecast by the CSIR is drastically different to that which was originally provided in the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE’s) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019, which expected last year to comprise the peak of load-shedding in the country.
COVID-19’s effect on energy demand
Wright and Calitz’s research also highlighted the reduced demand on the national electricity grid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This included peak demand dropping from an expected 33.4GW to 30.7GW, while minimum demand dropped to 13.8GW, Wright said.
The reduced demand was particularly evident during level 5 of the lockdown and has trended towards pre-COVID levels as the country reduced the intensity of the national lockdown.
However, this has only offered a brief respite, said Wright, and is unlikely to have a significant impact on the intensity of load-shedding in the next few years.
The plan for the future
Wright noted three key steps that urgently need to be implemented to help resolve the crisis faced by Eskom and the energy grid.
These are as follows:
1. Customer response at scale
This entails an immediate focus on customer response by enabling regulations that make it possible for businesses and homes to generate their own power.
This does not need to take the form of going completely off-grid, but rather generating some power to complement that which is provided by Eskom.
This could be implemented as soon as this year and would help deal with short-term power shortages.
2. DMRE RMPPP
The DMRE Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme (RMPPP) must be accelerated to address the remaining capacity and energy gaps within the country and to ensure capacity can come online timeously.
This programme is only set to come online in 2022, said the researchers, although this could be accelerated to mid-2021.
This would result in a further reduction in load-shedding.
3. Implement IRP 2019
It is important to place an immediate focus on ministerial determinations for all technologies outlined in the IRP 2019, followed by the procurement process to ensure this is implemented timeously.
According to the researchers, despite being required in 2022 according to IRP 2019, the best-case scenario is that the first capacity would come online from 2023.
This would ultimately result in an adequate power system coming into place in the mid-2020s.