860 hours of load shedding: These graphs show the sorry state of SA electricity

Business Insider SA
Power lines feed electricity to the national grid
Power lines feed electricity to the national grid from Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
  • A new report by the CSIR shows South Africa was hit by almost 860 hours of load shedding last year.
  • Despite more than R450 billion spent on the Kusile and Medupi power stations, and the rise of sustainable power sources, South Africa's ability to generate electricity has declined by 10% over the past decade.
  • The report found that wind and solar now contributed double as much power to the grid as do nuclear.
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As South Africa struggles with another bout of load shedding, a new report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) paints a grim picture of the country's ability to generate electricity.

The report, prepared by Joanne Calitz and Dr Jarrad Wright, was released this month based on last year's electricity data. It shows that South Africa had 859 hours of electricity rationing last year - almost 10% of time. For most of these hours, the country suffered Stage 2 load shedding.

It was the "most intensive" year for load shedding ever, the report found.

It's clear that the economic paralysis due to Covid-19 and associated lockdowns "saved" the country from even more power interruptions: 63% of the load shedding took place in the weeks before lockdown started at the end of March.

Source: CSIR

In 2020, demand for electricity fell by 5.1%. In the first four weeks of the "hard lockdown", which start on March 27 2020, weekly energy demand dropped by 20%.

Just how Eskom's ability to generate electricity has deteriorated is clear from this graph, which shows that production declined by almost 9% since 2010 - and this is despite the more than R450 billion spent on Medupi and Kusile power stations.

Source: CSIR

Medupi and Kusile have such serious design flaws that they must be taken out of commission for weeks at a time, to do corrective work.

This weekend, Medupi was also hit by an unplanned breakdown in power generation, Eskom said.

The utility has also again struggled with breakdowns at its older power stations, in particular Kriel and Kendal, in recent days. The average age of Eskom's coal-fired power stations is forty years.

The stations still contributed 83.5% to system demand in 2020, the report found.

But renewable energy now contributed more than 10% - more than double that generated by way of nuclear.

Source: CSIR

And there has been rapid growth in the contribution of sustainable power sources over recent years.

Source: CSIR

This graph shows where electricity supply comes from during different hours of an average day.

Source: CSIR

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