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Festive Season Ends and Loadshedding Returns

By Katerien Loubser

Eskom reintroduces loadshedding post festive season in South Africa. Photo: iStock

South Africans are once again grappling with the return of a familiar and unwelcome challenge - loadshedding. The notification from EskomSePush, the app notifying users of the loadshedding, quickly came this year. This perpetuation of power cuts in South Africa has generated growing concern among various businesses, citizens, and policymakers alike, as the effect of loadshedding is felt across various sectors. 

Loadshedding is an intentional and controlled interruption of the electricity supply to prevent the collapse of the power grid or power source. This intentional cut of electricity supply is a type of load management and operates by reducing the power consumption or rotating power outages on a daily basis. This issue has impacted South Africans for many years, but with events such as the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and the recent festive season, the hope for the end of loadshedding was short-lived. Due to the decreased schedule of loadshedding during this time, many South Africans hoped for the end of it, only to be disappointed again. 

Eskom has announced that the first loadshedding of the year will commence on Tuesday, 2 January 2024. The reintroduction of loadshedding is due to the nearly three-week break on its efforts to initiate better maintenance. There was hope that three generating units would be coming back online, as they initiate the potential of 2,148 MW, but unfortunately did not go as planned. Additionally, Eskom lost six generating units with a capacity of generating 3,113MW. 

The state-owned electricity supplier in South Africa, Eskom, has been infamous for grappling with various financial challenges in the past few years. The company, which provides electricity for the majority of South Africa, has faced serious issues such as corruption, mismanagement, and insufficient and unsustainable investment in infrastructure. These factors have hindered Eskom's ability to address the issues at hand. The company has been unable to maintain and upgrade power plants, leading to a fragile energy supply system. The power infrastructure is aging, and a lack of regular maintenance is contributing significantly to the recurring problem of load shedding and unsustainability thereof. Factors such as the perpetual need for repairs, technical issues, and breakdowns forces Eskom to implement load shedding as a preventive measure to avoid more severe and widespread blackouts.

South Africa's demand for electricity has consistently outstripped its available generation capacity. The growing population, industrial activities, and urbanization have exacerbated the strain on the power grid. Despite efforts to diversify the energy mix and invest in renewable sources, the country still heavily relies on coal for power generation. The consequences of loadshedding are immense, having both economic and social impact. But also creating decreased investor confidence into businesses in South Africa. The reoccurrence of loadshedding affects businesses profitability and productivity, as well as essential social services such as public transportation, education, and healthcare. 

As the festive season comes to an end and load shedding returns to South Africa, it emphasizes the urgent need for sustainable and comprehensive solutions to address the issue of South Africa’s energy crisis and the causes thereof. Eskom and the government must work collaboratively to implement reforms, improve infrastructure, and diversify the energy mix to ensure a more reliable and resilient power supply. Swift and decisive action is essential to steer South Africa away from the recurring spectre of power outages and towards more secure energy in the future.

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