Eskom’s true winter load-shedding revealed

Eskom’s official data shows that the power utility implemented load-shedding between 2,042MW and 6,929MW in June and July. It equates to stage 3 to stage 7 load-shedding.

This year, South Africa experienced the worst load-shedding since Eskom started implementing rotational power cuts in 2007.

Data from The Outlier and EskomSePush shows that South Africa was hit with load-shedding every day of the year – except one.

Although it is only July, the country has already experienced significantly more load-shedding than in 2022.

However, it only tells part of the story. In the first seven months of this year, there were already 36.4 full days of stage 6 load-shedding. There were only 8.3 days in the whole of last year.

There were already more full days of stage 3, stage 4, and stage 5 load-shedding in the first seven months of 2023 than in the whole of 2022.

Some consolation is that winter load-shedding did not reach stage 8 or higher as predicted by many energy experts.

In May, Eskom’s acting CEO Calib Cassim warned that stage 8 load-shedding was a possibility as electricity demand increased as temperatures fell.

Eskom’s winter outlook revealed a big demand and supply imbalance, which could lead to stage 8 load-shedding should its interventions prove ineffective.

“If unplanned outages average 18,000MW for the winter period, load-shedding will be required every day and implemented up to stage 8,” Eskom said.

Despite dealing with three units at Kusile that are not operating, Eskom has been able to prevent the country from facing stage 8 power cuts.

Eskom achieved better-than-expected performance by using more diesel open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs), limiting planned maintenance, and low demand.

However, the country is not out of the woods yet. Energy analyst Clyde Mallinson warned that things could quickly change when temperatures drop.

He highlighted that South Africa is heading towards the end of winter when demand for electricity peaks, putting immense pressure on Eskom’s ageing coal-powered fleet.

Eskom’s coal fleet has been unreliable, and he warned that the good performance during winter so far may end.

Mallinson warned, “If the coal fleet has a bit of a wobble when demand is high, then yes, we may see our first incidents of stage 7.”

The table below, courtesy of The Outlier, shows the load-shedding breakdown over the last decade.

Raw load-shedding numbers

Eskom regularly informs South Africans about the official load-shedding stage, but that does not tell the full story.

Eskom’s load-shedding data shows that power cuts across South Africa are significantly worse than the officially reported stages.

The power utility clearly defines each load-shedding stage based on the number of megawatts it cuts.

Up to 1,000MW cut from the national grid equals stage 1, up to 2,000MW equals stage 2, up to 3,000MW equals stage 3, and so on.

These straightforward definitions give everyone a good idea of how much power is cut from the grid and the impact on the economy.

Applying this definition to Eskom’s load-shedding data in megawatts shows that the country has essentially experienced up to stage 7 load-shedding this winter.

The table below shows the official load-shedding stage Eskom reported, how much power was cut from the grid, and what stage it is using the official definition.

DateLoad-sheddingReported StageDefined Stage
Thu, 1 June6,684 MWStage 6Stage 7
Fri, 2 June3,967 MWStage 4Stage 4
Sat, 3 June3,978 MWStage 4Stage 4
Sun, 4 June2,042 MWStage 2Stage 3
Mon, 5 June4,553 MWStage 4Stage 5
Tue, 6 June3,271 MWStage 3Stage 4
Wed, 7 June3,136 MWStage 3Stage 4
Thu, 8 June2,939 MWStage 3Stage 3
Fri, 9 June3,060 MWStage 3Stage 4
Sat, 10 June4,091 MWStage 4Stage 5
Sun, 11 June3,905 MWStage 4Stage 4
Mon, 12 June3,146 MWStage 3Stage 4
Tue, 13 June3,252 MWStage 3Stage 4
Wed, 14 June3,123 MWStage 3Stage 4
Thu, 15 June2,949 MWStage 3Stage 3
Fri, 16 June2,912 MWStage 3Stage 3
Sat, 17 June3,000 MWStage 3Stage 3
Sun, 18 June3,052 MWStage 3Stage 4
Mon, 19 June3,161 MWStage 3Stage 4
Tue, 20 June3,302 MWStage 3Stage 4
Wed, 21 June3,397 MWStage 3Stage 4
Thu, 22 June3,258 MWStage 3Stage 4
Fri, 23 June3,041 MWStage 3Stage 4
Sat, 24 June3,044 MWStage 3Stage 4
Sun, 25 June3,108 MWStage 3Stage 4
Mon, 26 June3,287 MWStage 3Stage 4
Tue, 27 June3,218 MWStage 3Stage 4
Wed, 28 June3,281 MWStage 3Stage 4
Thu, 29 June3,121 MWStage 3Stage 4
Fri, 30 June3,076 MWStage 3Stage 4
Sat, 1 July3,032 MWStage 3Stage 4
Sun, 2 July3,184 MWStage 3Stage 4
Mon, 3 July3,379 MWStage 3Stage 4
Tue, 4 July3,276 MWStage 3Stage 4
Wed, 5 July3,454MWStage 3Stage 4
Thu, 6 July3,369 MWStage 3Stage 4
Fri, 7 July2,795 MWStage 3Stage 3
Sat, 8 July2,708 MWStage 3Stage 3
Sun, 9 July3,054 MWStage 3Stage 4
Mon, 10 July3,771 MWStage 4Stage 4
Tue, 11 July4,082 MWStage 4Stage 5
Wed, 12 July6,432 MWStage 6Stage 7
Thu, 13 July6,929MWStage 6Stage 7
Fri, 14 July6,416 MWStage 6Stage 7
Sat, 15 July6,293 MWStage 6Stage 7
Sun, 16 July4,234 MWStage 4Stage 5
Mon, 17 July4,616 MWStage 4Stage 5
Tue, 18 July3,198 MWStage 3Stage 4
Wed, 19 July4,203 MWStage 4Stage 5
Thu, 20 July4,312 MWStage 4Stage 5
Fri, 21 July5,272 MWStage 5Stage 6
Sat, 22 July4,199 MWStage 4Stage 5