Rolling blackouts expected for the next 6-12 months in South Africa

Rolling blackouts expected for the next 6-12 months in South Africa

South African residents and businesses are being warned to prepare for "stage 2-3 load shedding" as the norm for 2023.

Blue View

Load shedding, a term for rolling power blackouts, is commonplace in South Africa first coming to light in 2007. South Africa used to boast highly competitive electricity prices that supported the development of state-of-the-art energy-intensive furnaces, making the country a leading ferroalloy producer. Now, the country’s energy advantage has eroded and threatens to move industries into disrepair.

The energy availability factor of Eskom’s power fleet, South Africa’s government energy utility, has been declining every year since 2017, according to a report published by the CSIR. The decline is largely from an increase in unplanned outages and capacity loss. Various factors have plagued the energy utility, with Eskom listing key issues as lack of proper maintenance, internal corruption, ongoing theft, sabotage and vandalism. Due to the vulnerability and unpredictability of the power system, the risk of continued load shedding is predicted to become the norm.

For energy-intensive industries, such as ferroalloys, the ever-increasing effective costs – soaring energy tariffs plus time offline burning diesel – have moved South African operations into the upper half or even quartile of industry curves. While currently some plant market positions are reprieved by energy issues elsewhere, notably Europe and China, the outlook from Eskom paints a concerning picture. Several mining corporations have started investing in solar energy to support mining and refining operations, but with Eskom unable to support continuous operations, the all-in-sustaining costs of production are making several producers review their options.

  • 17 Nov 2022
  • South Africa

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