Citizen Reporter
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4 minute read
15 Dec 2021
12:33 pm

Stage 8 load shedding a possibility if Eskom pollutes less

Citizen Reporter

Eskom has also warned that it would be forced to apply for an additional 10% tariff increase in 2022.

A general view of Tutuka Power Station on 18 November 2021 in Standerton, South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images/Rapport/Deon Raath

If more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) are taken off Eskom’s national grid, South Africa could be plunged into darkness due to the possibility of stage 8 load shedding.

This comes after the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) rejected Eskom’s application, which sought pollution exemptions for its power stations.

Air quality

Eskom was ordered to comply with minimum emission standards (MES) – which may cost the embattled power utility R300 billion – or be forced to close down 16,000MW of installed coal-fired capacity on its national grid.

All of Eskom’s power stations are required meet MES within a certain time frame as per the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act of 2004.

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Eskom had requested the postponement of compliance deadlines at the Matla, Duvha, Matimba, Medupi and Lethabo power stations.

However, the power utility’s applications for Majuba, Tutuka, Kendal and Kriel were partially granted.

Eskom said in a statement on Tuesday that its MES stipulated that no one-off postponement would be valid after 31 March 2025, but that a one-off suspension for plants being decommissioned by 31 March 2030 would apply. 

Stage 8

Speaking to eNCA on Wednesday morning, Eskom environmental manager Deidre Herbst said the department’s stance could lead to stage 8 load shedding across South Africa.

“The impact of the decision that has been made by the authorities is that there is 16,000MW of capacity which if we comply we will need to switch with immediate effect. This will result in stage 8 load shedding continuously,” she said.

Herbst indicated that Eskom was hoping to find common ground with certain departments, hence the power utility’s decision to appeal the matter.

READ MORE: Will load shedding get better? It doesn’t seem likely

“We have appealed the decision [and] we have asked for a mediation. So we hope to engage with the DMRE [Department of Mineral Resources and Energy], the DPE [Department of Public Enterprises] and the department of environment [to] find a balanced solution which improves and reduces the impact on health, but also adddresses the financial burden that this will create,” Herbst said.

She further cautioned that Eskom would be forced to apply for an additional 10% tariff increase in 2022.

Eskom is already seeking an average tariff increase of 20.5% for the next financial year.

But the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has argued that the total increase may amount to 54.35%, taking into account additional amounts Eskom applied for as claw backs from previous years.

The new tariffs will apply from April 1 next year for Eskom’s direct customers and from July 1 for municipalities.

Here are the different load shedding stages

There are currently four stages of load shedding (reportedly). However, Eskom has made provision for stages 6 through to 8 as well.

Stage 1

Stage 1 allows for up to 1,000MW of the national load to be shed. This is the “cosiest stage”, for lack of a better world. Outages will be implemented three times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or three times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.

Stage 2

Stage 2 allows for up to 2,000MW of the national load to be shed, and doubles the frequency of stage 1. Outages will be implemented six times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or six times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time

Stage 3

Stage 3 allows for up to 3,000MW of the national load to be shed. This stage increases the frequency of stage 2 by 50%, so outages will be implemented nine times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or nine times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.

Stage 4

Stage 4 allows for up to 4,000MW of the national load to be shed. Outages will be implemented 12 times over a four-day period for two hours at a time, or 12 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.

Stage 6 and 7

Stage 6 is the highest we’ve ever been shed, in December 2019. At stages 6 and 7, Eskom sheds 6,000MW and 7,000MW respectively, which means power cuts will be scheduled over a four-day period for four hours at a time.

Stage 8

The dreaded stage 8 doubles the frequency of stage 4, meaning Eskom will shed 8,000MW and residents will be in the dark up to six times a day, or 12 hours depending on the schedule.

It’s safe to say that South Africa will be plunged into chaos if we ever reach this point. Hospitals and critical infrastructure will struggle to remain functional, while the extended outages will also disrupt the economy.

Most citizens will be without electricity for prolonged periods, looting and crime will escalate and food production will be severely halted.

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Additional reporting by Nica Richards and Cheryl Kahla