New report highlights decade of falling electricity production in South Africa

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11TH MARCH 2021
BY: TERENCE CREAMER CREAMER MEDIA EDITOR
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– Statistics of utility-scale power generation in South Africa in 2020 (8.92 MB)Download
Anew Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) report offers a sobering picture of declining electricity system production and demand between 2010 and 2020 – a trend that was amplified further during Covid-hit 2020, when demand slumped by a sharp 5.1%, or 11.8 TWh, to a decade low level of 227 TWh.
Titled ‘Statistics of utility-scale power generation in South Africa in 2020 ’, the report has been compiled by the CSIR Energy Centre’s *Joanne Calitz* and Dr *Jarrad Wright*. ADVERTISEMENT
It shows that system demand has been falling for more than a decade, declining by 8.8% from 249 TWh in 2010 to 227 TWh last year, a 0.9% annual average reduction.
Excluding 2020, the reduction from 249 TWh in 2010 to 239 TWh in 2019 represents a 4% decline overall and an average decline of 0.5% a year. ADVERTISEMENT
The report also underlines the ongoing decline in the performance of Eskom’s coal fleet, which was the main contributor to another intense year of load-shedding, with 859 hours, or 9.8% of the year, affected by rotational power cuts, which resumed again on March 10.
The average energy availability factor (EAF) of the Eskom coal fleet slumped to 65%, from 66.9% in 2019 and 71.9% in 2018.
At 20.9%, unplanned outages were the biggest contributor to the lower EAF.
Despite this poor performance, coal continued to dominate the South African energy mix during pandemic-afflicted 2020. However, the report also shows that electricity produced from variable renewable energy sources surpassed nuclear for the first time ever last year.
More than 83% of system demand of 227 TWh, which included pumping load, was met using coal -fired power generation, which contributed 184.4 TWh.
Nuclear energy contributed 5.2%, or 11.5 TWh, while the 5 GW variable renewable energy fleet of solar photovoltaic (PV), wind and concentrated solar power (CSP) contributed 5.6%, or 12.4 TWh. Once hydropower is included, renewables contributed 10.5%, or 23.1 TWh.
By the end of 2020, the monthly wind, solar PV and CSP production combined varied between 784 GWh and 1 161 GWh, with the maximum daily total energy from solar PV, wind and CSP combined being 59 GWh on 1 December last year.
The maximum instantaneous penetration level from variable renewable energy was 16% of system demand and occurred on 27 December.