The fear of load shedding has been on every South African’s mind as winter fast approaches. With 2015’s major blackouts vividly remembered, South African’s have been unsure of whether this situation might repeat itself in 2016. Eskom has recently tried to put those fears to rest after announcing that if all current maintenance on the country’s power plants goes according to plan, the country will be free from load shedding throughout winter. After President Jacob Zuma’s visit to Eskom’s headquarters on Friday May 6, he reiterated that he is confident Eskom has done enough to prevent blackouts for the rest of the year. South Africans therefore, don’t have to worry about power outages, effects on productivity, power surges or damages to home contents just yet.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, demand and extreme maintenance issues with the power supply caused the country to experience major electricity blackouts. According to Finance24, this has been attributed to two major reasons, namely lack of maintenance on aging power plants, and a delay in completion of an extra two power plants (Medupi and Kusile). This delay is largely due to the lack of a clear funding plan resulting in no money to finance the construction of the two extra power plants, and an insufficient number of workers to carry out construction due to the massive amount of manpower needed to complete the projects. These blackouts affected business owners and therefore our economy hugely, as some operations shut down for several days at a time due to the inability to produce goods without electricity.
Private users of electricity also felt the effects, as power surges have been reported to damage electrical products including computers, hard drives, printers and phones. MyBroadband, explains a power surge as a “sudden rush of electricity into a device. This can cause the device‘s power supply to blow or short, rendering it unusable” and reports an increase in damaged goods sent in for repairs during 2015.
Eyewitness News recently reported that South Africa has now been free of load shedding for approximately 9 months, and as Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe has assured us, it will remain this way. Planned maintenance, which began last month, is set to carry on until August this year. The hope is that if all goes according to plan, load shedding will be an issue of the past. Eskom has now managed to increase its performance and ability to produce more electricity. According to Eyewitness News, its power plants have increased their electricity production from 69.9% of its total capacity in 2015 to 76% at the end of April this year, with the goal of reaching 80%.
Although this seems like positive news, how has Eskom managed to do this when the country’s lack of electricity supply was dire towards the end of 2015? Apart from the increase in maintenance on run-down power plants and construction on the new power plants, demand for electricity has decreased. The decline in South Africa’s economy due to the world recession has resulted “in a collapse in the demand for electricity as mines, factories, businesses, smelters, etc. shutter operations. This has created the illusion ... that Eskom’s turnaround strategy is working,” says Dwaine van Vuuren, full-time trader, global investor and stock-market researcher. So while maintenance has improved productivity, the decline in our economy has lifted the heavy burden previously placed on our power supply, bolstering Eskom’s plan to increase production.
While it seems load shedding days are behind us, we can never be completely certain that they will not return. Demand may increase as our economy strengthens and overload our power supply once again. While we shouldn’t think negatively about our electricity situation, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Make sure you have Household Insurance in place, so that if load shedding does appear once again, your precious household items are covered in the event of a power surge.