54 days without load shedding: Economist highlights private sector helping to keep the lights on

A Standard Bank economist has highlighted the impact the private sector is playing in keeping load shedding at bay. Picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers

A Standard Bank economist has highlighted the impact the private sector is playing in keeping load shedding at bay. Picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers

Published May 20, 2024


It has now been 54 days since South Africa last experienced load shedding and this leading economist believes that the efforts of the private sector to generate their own power has contributed to Eskom keeping the lights on.

Elna Moolman, an economist at Standard Bank, said the bank has seen significant improvement in load shedding diminishing because of efforts by the private sector to generate its own generation capacity with rooftop solar, wind power and other initiatives.

Moolman told IOL News that that the main reason for this uptick is the growth in the private sector’s generation capacity.

“Several data sources, including from Eskom but also (independent) import data, confirms the extensive investment by the private sector in electricity generation capacity over the past few years,” she said.

“Insofar as the improvement is supported by fundamental improvements, and we’ve expected a significant improvement this year all along, we do expect loadshedding to be sustainably better than the worst spells last year.”

She however echoed Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, saying the country was not out of the woods just yet.

Moolman said that this doesn’t rule out the possibility that there could, at any time, before or after the election, be spikes in load shedding if there are unexpected sizeable breakdowns.

“The fleet is generally quite old and fragile, and hasn’t always been maintained perfectly,” she added

“The improvement in load shedding is a key reason why we expect economic growth to improve this year, to around 1.2%, from only 0.6% last year. We expect, however, growth to be very weak initially, with a recovery over the course of the year,” she said.

Solar is a key part

Addressing the media on Monday from Pretoria, Ramokgopa said his Energy Action Plan was providing the results needed.

The minister, like Moolman, acknowledged that solar energy remained a key part government’s strategy to combat load shedding.

He added that Eskom’s performance is not necessarily a result of the performance of the renewable energy projects.

“If you go to the Energy Action Plan and you look at Outcome 4, it said we have to introduce incentives to make it possible for us to aggressively roll out rooftop solar solutions by both industry and households.

“We have been able to double the amount of rooftop solar solution megawatts that can be drawn from that intervention from about 2,100MW to 4,400MW,” Ramokgopa added.

Burning Diesel

Ramokgopa again denied that Eskom was burning huge amounts of diesel to keep the lights on.

“We are not yet out of the woods but we can see the trend line. We know that we are going to have momentary setbacks. It is the nature of this, but we must be fixed on returning units on time. And where there are periods of failure, you must not be despondent,” he added.

Ramaokgopa said having no load shedding two months before the elections was not an election ploy by the ANC.

He explained that the Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT), which burned diesel, were part of Eskom’s fleet.

Ramokgopa said that the OCGTs are designed to assist with the afternoon peak when there is a huge electricity demand. When the country is struggling to meet that demand, then Eskom engages with the turbines.

“If you look at the period that they were on load on average was previously about 17% and then now, we are just shy of 6%. So it’s a considerable drop on the usage.

“From the April 1, 2024 to May 16, Eskom spent R1.24 billion in engaging the OCGTs. The same period last year, we had burnt R5.2 billion worth of diesel. Essentially, we have seen a drop of 78%,” he said.