No Heroes at ESKOM – Lower Demand currently prevents Load Shedding

An energy sector leader recently observed that the electricity crisis in South Africa is maturing (perhaps like cheese) from generation capacity problems to issues of electricity prices, tariffs, the price elasticity of demand, and the capacity of Eskom to finance its generation, transmission and distribution activities.

Amid the onset of regular load shedding in late 2014, a so-called War Room was established, comprising representatives from various government departments and Eskom, and headed nominally by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

This was not a creature of statute, but a temporary structure intended to focus on five core short-term issues that had been identified, and to complete its work in a timeframe of six months or so.

While it may appear that the War Room interventions and new leadership at Eskom have stabilised the generation capacity crisis, South Africans should take little comfort that load shedding has stopped when electricity demand in 2015 is some 5% less than in 2014, and about 10% lower than it was in 2007.

The further 5% drop in demand in 2015 has indeed provided welcome space for Eskom to keep planned maintenance levels at about 5 000 MW without the need for load shedding in recent months. However, recovery from the generation maintenance backlog is a long haul.

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