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Despite the recent respite in loadshedding, in the form of lower stages, Investec equity analysts Herbert Kharivhe and Ross Krige caution against complacency. In the latest episode of No Ordinary Wednesday, find out what stages they’re forecasting for the rest of winter and beyond.
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South Africa has been grappling with a series of infrastructural crises in recent years, and load shedding has become an increasingly pressing concern for citizens.
One report suggests that the South African economy could have grown by up to 7% last year had it not been cauterised by the effects of power cuts.
While there has been a temporary relief from severe blackouts in the form of lower stages of power cuts in recent weeks, the question remains: will the lights stay on? In the first five months of 2023 alone, over 13 gigawatts were shed, surpassing the total for the entire year of 2022.
As winter continues for at least another two months, people are asking Government for a sustainable solution to this energy crisis.
Speaking on the podcast No Ordinary Wednesday on Investec Focus Radio SA, experts Herbert Kharivhe and Ross Krige, equity analysts at Investec, shed some welcome light on the loadshedding outlook and the factors influencing its availability in the coming months.
Loadshedding: a fragile respite
Both Kharivhe and Krige agreed that despite recent improvements, where the severity of power cuts has been reduced, it was too soon to celebrate though, highlighting the inherent unpredictability of the power situation.
Kharivhe traced the problem back to the 1990s and 2000s when the country failed to invest in timely generation capacity.
This lack of new infrastructure forced existing plants to operate at maximum capacity, leading to neglect in maintenance. With outdated equipment and insufficient maintenance, the energy availability factor (EAF) plummeted to a meagre 49%, far below the target of 75%
The pair said EAF, which measures the availability of Eskom units to produce energy needed to improve including the replacement of boilers and turbines.
However, the lack of maintenance and the presence of other rogue elements contributed to persistently low factor.
Investing in power generation
While Eskom faces significant funding constraints, both agreed there was now a more favourable environment for private sector investment. Major banks are keen on funding renewable energy projects, which align with their return objectives and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets. The potential capital spending for large-scale projects and household/commercial solar projects is estimated to exceed 300 billion rand in the next two and a half years, presenting significant funding opportunities.
Kharivhe and Krige both acknowledge the delayed impact of increased self-generation but noted recent progress.
The removal of the cap on private sector generation has accelerated the registration of projects, with an estimated 10 gigawatts of private sector capacity expected to be operational by the end of 2025. This surge in private power generation, including rooftop solar installations, is expected to contribute to a more competitive electricity market and potentially alleviate some of the load shedding challenges.
Critical to success is the importance of political will in addressing the energy crisis. Both argued that the slow rollout of large-scale renewable projects is primarily attributed to political factors and differing ideologies within the government.
Looking ahead, the pair cautiously predicted that load shedding might reduce to stage one or two within the next 24 months.