The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has released its annual statistics on power generation in South Africa for 2020.
The statistics reveal that load-shedding occurred for 859 hours of the year (9.8%) despite a reduction in demand during the national COVID-19 lockdown.
These rolling blackouts were driven by Eskom’s plummeting energy availability factor (EAF), which measures plant availability including planned maintenance, unplanned breakdowns, and energy losses not under plant management control.
“Eskom fleet EAF is on a declining trend and drove load-shedding events in 2020,” the CSIR noted.
Over the past year, Eskom’s power generation fleet delivered an average EAF of 65%, with the lowest figure of 51.7% being recorded on 31 December 2020.
The graph below shows the steady decline in Eskom’s EAF from January 2016 until January 2021.
EAF in 2021
While the CSIR has not yet provided an outlook for 2021 with respect to load-shedding predictions, a continued decline in EAF is likely to result in more intense load-shedding.
Based on last year’s trend, the average EAF delivered by Eskom for the year to date does not bode well for load-shedding in South Africa.
According to Eskom’s latest weekly generation availability report, the average EAF for the year to date is only 58.55%.
This may have been a significant factor in the recent implementation of stage 2 load-shedding as a result of the continued need for the power utility to burn emergency fuel.
The table below shows Eskom’s weekly EAF figures for the year to date.
2020 the worst year for load-shedding
The CSIR found that 2020 was the worst year for load-shedding yet, despite stage 6 load-shedding being implemented for a short period in 2019.
This continued escalation of load-shedding is attributed primarily to unplanned outages, breakdowns, and maintenance, all of which detract from the EAF of Eskom’s power fleet.
“2020 is seemingly the most intensive load-shedding year yet, calculated based on the upper limit of load-shedding,” the CSIR said.
Stage 2 load-shedding was by far the most common form of managed power outages implemented by Eskom, accounting for an upper limit of 1,192GWh of power shed.
The graphs below show the Eskom load-shedding figures for the past 13 years, along with breakdowns by load-shedding stage and cumulative hours shed.