South Africa is one of the largest countries in Africa, the 25th biggest in the world, and currently ranked 31st among major economies and 99th in the list of the richest countries in the world..
South Africa came out of a very long and hard struggle against apartheid (an institutionalized system of racial segregation) finally becoming a democracy in 1994..
Fast forward to 2023, South Africa is facing another major struggle, this time, economic in nature, caused by “load-shedding” which has continued for the past 14 years with no real solution in sight..
Load shedding is the intentional and controlled reduction of electric power supplied to certain areas in order to prevent a total blackout or power failure..
It is a common practice in countries where the power grid is not able to meet the demand for electricity and is typically done during periods of high demand or when there is a shortage of electricity supply..
In the case of South Africa, load-shedding is being implemented by the State-owned power utility Eskom in order to protect the power grid from collapsing as the utility is unable to meet consumer demand due to aging infrastructure, lack of maintenance, delivery issues with coal, diesel prices, and several other reasons at various stages..
Load-shedding has severely and negatively impacted trade, industry, people’s living conditions, reputation, and the economy of South Africa creating inconsistency due to the various unpredictable stages of load-shedding..
Current stages of load-shedding
- Stage 1 – power outages 3 times over four days for 2 hours at a time or 3 times for an eight-day period for 4 hours at a time.
- Stage 2 – doubles the frequency, with outages 6 times over four days for 2 hours at a time or 6 times over an eight-day period for 4 hours at a time.
- Stage 3 – increases the frequency of stage 2 by 50% so that outage will be implemented 9 times over four days for 2 hours at a time, or 9 times over an eight-day period for 4 hours at a time.
- Stage 4 – power outages will be implemented 12 times over four days for 2 hours at a time or 12 times over an eight-day period for 4 hours at a time.
- Stage 5 – comes with outages 12 times over four days, 9 times for 2 hours, or 3 times for 4 hours.
Stage 6 – power outages will be scheduled 12 times over four days, 6 times for 2 hours, or 6 times for 4 hours.
So far Stage 6 has been the highest stage, the country experienced, but there are 2 more possible stages
Stage 7 – the power will be out up to 12 times over four days, 3 times for 2 hours, or 9 times for 4 hours.
Stage 8 – the power cuts will be implemented up to 12 times over four days for four hours at a time.
Load-shedding to stay on at least for 2 more years
Eskom board chairperson Mpho Makwana announced on Sunday 22nd Jan that Eskom will implement permanent stage 2 and stage 3 load shedding for the next 24 months at least..
Announcing the decision, Makwana said “The reality is that the recovery of the Eskom coal fleet, currently comprising 80% of our generation power mix, will not be achieved within the short term. It will take at least two years to ultimately reach the perfectly-desirable energy availability factor.”
“We want to ensure that we create some predictability by implementing some level of permanent stages of between Stage 2 and 3 load shedding for the next two years in order to give sufficient space for maintenance, while giving the country a level of predictability or consistency to plan livelihoods better.”
Electricity by ship to the rescue..??
One of the plans to address these power shortages is to bring in electricity by, you guessed it, ship..
This highly controversial and debatable option is being considered strongly by the Government of South Africa which plans to procure electricity from Karpowership..
Karpowership is the owner, operator, and builder of the only Powership™ (floating power plant) fleet in the world, owning and operating 36 Powerships with an installed capacity of 6,000 MW..
As per Karpowership’s website, “Powerships have a range starting from 30 MW up to 470 MW and they are delivered ready to operate in less than 60 days. Starting from the design, and ending with delivery of electricity, Karpowership fully executes all activities in-house including construction, site preparation, commissioning, and fuel supply.
Powerships are designed, constructed and engineered to be deployed to various corners of the world on a short, medium and long-term basis, adding base load, mid-merit or peak shaving electricity generation capacity to the host country’s grid.”
The Turkish-based company seeks to supply 1,220 megawatts of power to South Africa from three ship-mounted gas-fired power plants, pending a decision on its application to proceed with the projects from the country’s environment department by the 7th of March 2023..
How does a Powership work..??
Powerships are ship or barge-mounted, fully integrated floating power plants with varying generating capacity for utility-size operations capable of generation within a short period of time without requiring any land acquisition..
Powerships utilize dual-fuel engine technology and operate in a combined cycle mode to maximize efficiency providing fuel flexibility through Natural Gas, LNG or Low Sulfur HFO..
As per Karpowership, Powerships can be installed at a coastal site where there is an available substation for electrical connection and suitable marine conditions for berthing or mooring..
Mooring will be followed by the interconnection of Powership to the main grid after which fuel connection takes place either from on-shore facilities via pipeline or through bunkering..
If the environmental approval is granted and financial arrangements concluded soon after, Karpowership may then deliver electricity under that arrangement within 14 to 15 months but currently, environmentalists have said that using Karpowership would contribute to carbon emissions and disrupt marine ecology and fishing..
They have also objected to the duration of the contract which is said to be around 20 years costing South Africa ZAR218 billion ($12 billion) as per estimates of CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), a South African state agency..
The cost implications for this are too high and would be a logistical nightmare for landlocked countries