South Africa's Eskom to reduce power cuts but long-term outlook bleak

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa lauded energy company Eskom as the country has not experienced load shedding throughout the week. However, he urged the company to be consistent and warned that the "true test" of the struggling utility firm will come when the big industries are back from break.

Eskom announced earlier this week that there will be no load-shedding until Friday (Dec. 22), mainly due to the receipt of China's first consignment of donated energy equipment on Nov. 30.

"During this period, we have seen an exceptionally good performance by the units. Outside the issues of reduced demand, we have seen that the unplanned capacity loss factor – a combination of the units being unreliable and the units not performing at the right levels – the system has been healthy," the minister was quoted as saying by SA News.

However, Ramokgopa noted that the problem with the system is that it is healthy only in parts and Eskom needs to maintain consistency to ensure the system is healthy.

"You are not seeing load shedding [because] we are working behind the scenes. We are aggressive on maintenance and the system is performing. The outlook, in the short term, looks upbeat and we want to ensure that the lights remain on," he said.

Though Eskom remains optimistic that the good performance of units will be sustained over the next two weeks, Ramokgopa warned that a "true test" of the system's performance is yet to happen when big industries come back.

"It's about sustaining the South African economy. So, we can't celebrate the fact that we don't have load shedding when the South African economy has gone on a temporary break," he noted.

Ramokgopa said South Africa wants to be in a situation where there is no load shedding while the economy is also performing well. He added that the government is using this opportunity to work aggressively on the maintenance program and take full advantage of the slowed-down demand for electricity.

"...When we do planned maintenance, it simply means that I'm removing the units off the grid so I'm lessening my ability to generate the megawatts. That's why we have used a combination of low demand and the healthy performance of units during this period to do not only planned maintenance, but opportunity maintenance," he said.

Meanwhile, Ramokgopa noted the success of the Energy Action Plan (EAP) to fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply rests on addressing the rate of failure of generating units and ensuring improvements in the efficiency of the units.

President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the EAP in July 2022 to address load shedding and achieve energy security for the country.