South Africa Marks 54 Days Without Loadshedding Despite Challenges

Eskom Battles Overburdened Transformers, Illegal Connections Threaten Stability

The country’s energy supply is still under danger even as South Africa celebrates its 54th day without load shedding—the longest period since early 2022. Overloaded transformers are a serious concern that can be made worse by tampering and unauthorized electrical connections, according to Eskom, the nation’s electricity company.

More than 2,000 transformers in South Africa are reportedly overloaded, which might result in overloads and explosions, according to Eskom. Communities may have prolonged power outages as a result of this concerning circumstance, which might be particularly problematic as the winter season approaches and the temperature drops. In response, Eskom launched a campaign called “Save Your Transformers, Save Lives” with the goal of informing people about the dangers of overloading transformers and promoting lower electricity usage.

Over the past year, Eskom has invested more than R300 million to replace failed transformers and mini substations. Despite these efforts, the utility notes that these expenditures have not generated any direct revenue, underscoring the financial strain caused by equipment failures linked to illegal activities. “Several safety incidents and equipment failures are directly linked to these unlawful activities. They not only endanger lives but also disrupt supply continuity and cause extensive damage to transformers and related infrastructure,” Eskom stated.

The utility also highlighted the dangers posed by illegal connections, theft of network equipment, vandalism, meter bypasses, unauthorized network operations, and the purchase of electricity from illegal vendors. These actions heavily burden the network, increasing the risk of transformer failures and explosions, which pose serious safety risks to the public, potentially leading to injuries or even fatalities. The process of replacing or repairing damaged transformers and related equipment can be lengthy, ranging from days to months, depending on the extent of the damage and the frequency of such incidents.

In his weekly update on the Ministerial Energy Action Plan, the Minister of Electricity in the Presidency, Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, praised Eskom’s efforts that have contributed to the current no loadshedding streak. “With today marking 54 days and counting without loadshedding… a significant achievement thanks to the dedication of the leadership, management, and staff of Eskom,” he remarked. The last notable stretch without loadshedding occurred between December 5, 2021, and February 2, 2022.

Speaking about Eskom’s fuel expenses, which are an essential part of operating the company’s open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs), Ramokgopa pointed out a notable decrease. Eskom spent R1.24 billion on diesel between April 1 and May 16, which is less than the R5.2 billion it spent in the same period last year. A lower load factor, no usage during peak morning and evening hours for sixteen days, and a general drop in OCGT operational demand are some of the factors that have contributed to the decreased OCGT utilization. Eskom has invested R1.25 billion in OCGTs since April 1st, and while this represents a considerable decrease in energy production over the prior year, it does so in line with a more economical and efficient approach to energy management.

Additionally, on May 12, 2024, Eskom recorded an Energy Availability Factor (EAF) of 70%, and it has continued to remain at those levels ever since. This measure is essential. The Pretoria High Court’s December 2023 order, which requires a continuous electricity supply to vital public institutions including police stations, public health facilities, and schools, puts the government in legal jeopardy amid these developments. After losing its attempt to appeal this decision, the state is currently considering its next course of action.

The challenges presented by illicit electrical activity and the upkeep of vital infrastructure continue to be urgent concerns that demand constant attention and action in order to ensure the stability and safety of the country’s power supply, even as South Africa enters its longest stretch without loadshedding.

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