Load shedding: SA needs a just energy transition, but keeps kicking the can down the road

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Longyuan Mulilo De Aar 2 (North). Photo Jay Caboz.
Longyuan Mulilo De Aar 2 (North). Photo Jay Caboz.

Just two months ago, Eskom officials told the country they had made the most of lockdown to implement short-term maintenance of power stations, successfully limiting the probability of load shedding to three days in winter.

But two months is a long time in the energy sector, and a lot can go wrong. On Friday the power utility reintroduced load shedding for the first time since lockdown was implemented – this as a number of its generating units failed at its coal-fired power plants. According to Eskom, the cold weather had led to a significant rise in demand. 

The recent spate of load shedding, or rather, Eskom's inability to deliver on its mandate to ensure secure electricity supply for an economy that's in recession, brings to the fore the debate on whether SA should increase its reliance on renewable energy technologies. "The case for an energy transition was clear even before load shedding. But load shedding during a time of reduced demand and economic recession is certainly a signal that something needs to be done to improve the country's electricity generation capacity," said Bryce McCall, research officer of the Energy Systems Research Group at the University of Cape Town.

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