Winter load shedding forecast: Here's what South Africans can expect

Eskom has forecast a significant reduction in load shedding schedules during the winter months which lay ahead.


This was confirmed on Thursday morning, when Eskom's Group Chief Executive, Andre de Ruyter, issued an annual State of the System Address. Flanked by the utility's Chief Operating Officer, Jan Oberholzer, de Ruyter revealed that while the nationwide lockdown had impacted its reliability maintained programme, critical short-term repairs had drastically increased Eskom's capacity.

Eskom still facing challenges


Prior to lockdown, Eskom was marred by serious financial and operational challenges. These shortcomings, largely related to corruption, mismanagement and poor upkeep strategies, plunged the nation into a period of protracted darkness. Fluctuating stages of load shedding swiftly became a daily occurrence, costing the economy billions of rands in unserved energy expenses.


In an attempt to rescue the flailing power utility from complete collapse, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed an Eskom Task Team and embarked on the contentious unbundling strategy.

Lockdown delays reliability maintenance programme


The nationwide lull resulting from the coronavirus-induced lockdown has proven to be a particularly complex double-edged sword for Eskom. The state owned enterprise, which recently recorded its greatest-ever financial loss, has been unable to raise revenue as a result of the decrease in demand. This has added further strain to the utility's financial forecasts.


The lockdown has also impacted Eskom's operations. De Ruyter revealed that Eskom's reliability maintenance programme, which focused on extensive repairs to power plants, had been slowed due to health regulations.


In addition, de Ruyter noted that 21 Eskom employees had been infected with the coronavirus.


Despite lockdown's challenges, Oberholzer has been quick to point out the utility's progressive milestones. While the reliability maintenance programme was forced to take a back seat during lockdown, Oberholzer confirmed that critical repairs to Eskom infrastructure had been successfully carried out.

Winter load shedding: 90% less than first expected


Oberholzer expanded on points concerning Eskom's system performance and preparation for the winter season, which generally raises demand and piles pressure onto the utility. Oberholzer noted two primary figures:

  1. Due to lockdown, demand reduced by an average of 6 000 MW up to a maximum of 11 000 MW.

  2. Critical short term maintenance has doubled to more than 9 000 MW on occasion

Most important to the people of South Africa, however, has been Eskom's revised forecast concerning winter load shedding. Initially, Eskom forecast 31 days of load shedding during the winter season; this has now been revised to just three days, signifying a decrease of 90%.


Oberholzer did, however, explain that the probability of unplanned breakdowns could not be ruled out and that, should Eskom experience sudden challenges, South Africa could experience more days under load shedding.