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This article was first published on the 5th of July 2021
For 14 years, loadshedding has continued to plague South Africa and its people. Apart from the glaringly obvious frustrations people have, the intermittent blackouts have dire consequences for the economy, too. In September 2020, Deputy President David Mabuza remarked that load shedding would be resolved once the Medupi power generating plant had been incorporated into the grid. As MyBroadband reports, Mabuza had said that the aforementioned plant would be completed by 2020, while Kusile is set to be completed by 2023. Despite these promises, load shedding is still very much a part of South African daily life. Below, My Broadband delves into the history behind load shedding. Interestingly, between 1961 and 1991, state-owned Eskom had built and completed a remarkable 14 new power stations “with an installed capacity of 35,804MW.” Over the following 30 years however, just one was completed. A legacy of mismanagement and corruption certainly played a big role in this. – Jarryd Neves
Real reason behind loadshedding in South Africa
South Africa has experienced loadshedding since 2007 because the country failed to build new power stations to keep up with economic growth and replace ageing generation plants.
Between 1961 and 1991, Eskom completed 14 new power stations with an installed capacity of 35,804MW.
Over the next 30 years, between 1991 and 2021, Eskom only completed one new power station, Majuba, with an installed capacity of 4,110MW.
Construction of Medupi and Kusile, with a combined installed capacity of 9,564MW, began in 2007, but these power plants are still not fully operational.
Design faults, corruption, and mismanagement delayed the completion of these important stations.
Eskom’s new management is addressing these challenges, but it is taking much longer than expected.
Deputy President David Mabuza said in September 2020 that loadshedding would be “sorted once the Medupi power plant is incorporated into the grid”.
He also said the Medupi power station would be completed in 2020, while Kusile will be completed by 2023.
Fast forward nine months and South Africa is still dogged by loadshedding, and Medupi is still not functioning optimally.
The completion of Kusile has also been delayed again. Eskom has committed to completing the Kusile power station within the 2024/25 financial year – 18 years after construction began.
The government’s lack of planning, and Eskom’s inability to complete Medupi and Kusile as initially planned, is costing the country dearly.
2020 was the worst year for loadshedding South Africa has ever experienced despite lower demand because of the lockdown.
This year started off even worse. Dr Jarrad Wright, the principal engineer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), warned that 2021 would be even worse for loadshedding than 2020.
What many South Africans find frustrating is that the government was informed that they should take action to secure the country’s electricity supply.
In 1998, the Department of Minerals and Energy said, “Eskom’s generation capacity surplus will be fully utilised by about 2007”.
This warning was ignored, and, as predicted, South Africa ran out of energy in 2007 and had to implement loadshedding.
Energy experts issued many subsequent warnings about the country’s electricity supply shortages, but they also fell on deaf ears.
The interests of corrupt Eskom executives and politically connected businesspeople enjoyed preference over the interests of the country.
Instead of building new power stations and opening up the grid, Eskom and mega-projects like Medupi and Kusile were easy targets for looting.
The result is that the country has not built enough power stations and ran out of electricity.
The image below shows the power station stations built in two 30-year periods – 1961 to 1991, and 1991 and 2021.
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