DURBAN – Gauteng province, the country’s economic powerhouse, consumes the largest portion of Eskom’s supply in South Africa.

A breakdown of Eskom’s provincial demand of 2019 Systems Peak shows that Gauteng, which is also home to the country largest population, last year consumed more than 10 380 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the grid.

Northern Cape, which has the smallest population, only took 846 MW off the grid.

Energy expert Ted Blom said that consumption patterns in the country mirrored the manufacturing and mining production tapestry of the country.

“SA has the mineral deposits, it is mining and energy policy that will either enhance new developments or kill them off over the next 5 years, which will result in a surplus energy scenario with non-mining consumption of around 10-12MW energy required,” Blom said. “Households will increasingly move off the grids to suitable off-grid solutions becoming more prolific.”

This week Eskom moved load shedding to stage 4 charging that some of its units, particularly at Koeberg power station, had tripped.

Since the beginning of the year, the power utility currently has produced around 61.68 percent of electricity compared to 66.89 percent in 2019.

Generation plummeted more than 6 percent percent year-on-year in January – forcing the utility to implement stage 6 load shedding for the first time – following a 4 percent plunge in December.

Gauteng, Northwest and Mpumalanga, the country’s major mining provinces gobble the largest chunk of generated electricity.

Together with KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, the three provinces are responsible for more than half of the country’s total consumption, leading to fears more loads
shedding could lead to a drastic reduction in South Africa’s economic output.

Old Mutual chief economist this week said the dim growth domestic product (GDP) print last week showed that the country needed more energy to grow the economy.
“Load shedding is not the only factor because the economy is also weak. There are however positives because the government is going to allow mines to generate their own power and some municipalities (in good standing) to procure their own power from independent power producers,” said Els.

Electricity supply has remained a central focus for the government as load shedding continues to hamper the economy’s optimal functioning and strangulated growth.

The government is also trying to deal with Eskom’s long‐term debt, which currently stands at R441 billion from R255bn in 2014.

The Department of Public Enterprises has said that repayments on the debt would average R180bn in the next five year while interest payments would be approximately R148bn.

The escalating debt burden has been a key concern for ratings agencies, with debt servicing costs constituting government’s fastest growing expense.

Last Sunday, Moody’s lowered South Africa’s growth forecast for 2020 to 0.4 percent from the previous 0.7 percent, citing the impact of coronavirus on global growth.

Blom said the available energy was 4 500 MW short of the maximum needed to drive growth.

He said load shedding hit the productive provinces with more disastrous effects.

“If one compares where the energy is needed contrasted to where it is produced, it becomes clear that SA is very vulnerable to the transmission function of Eskom, an area that has been starved of capital for upgrading over the past 20 years,” Blom said.

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