Load shedding: This is what stage 8 would look like
Stage 8 allows for 8,000MW of electricity to be pulled off the grid, resulting in 12 hours of the day being spent in darkness.
Blue smoke with candls
South Africa could never experience a total blackout of electricity, but Eskom could ramp up the load shedding to stage 8 in a worst-case scenario, according to CEO Andre de Ruyter.
But what does stage 8 load shedding actually entail?
Stage 8 allows for 8,000MW of electricity to be pulled off the grid, resulting in 12 hours of the day being spent in darkness, 48 hours over four days, or 96 hours in eight days.
However, this will vary from region to region according to energy expert Chris Yelland.
Eskom has a total electricity capacity of more than 45,000 MW against a demand of 30,000 MW.
If the parastatal runs below the demand of 30,000MW due to a number of factors including unplanned breakdown and if its unable to replenish that power, load shedding is implemented and what the ‘dark lords’ of Megawatt Park calls ‘as a last resort’ to make up the shortfall.
Under the load shedding schedule, stages are implemented at different stages.
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 four days for two hours at a time, or three times over eight days for four hours at a time.
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 four days for two hours at a time, or six times over eight days for four hours at a time.
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 four days for two hours at a time, or nine times over eight days for four hours at a time.
Stage 4 allows for up to 4,000MW of the national load to be shed. Outages will be implemented 12 times over four days for two hours at a time, or 12 times over eight days for four hours at a time.
Stage 6 and 7
Stage 6 is the highest that was ever 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 four days for four hours at a time.
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.
Yelland said if Eskom ever implements stage 8 load shedding, it will be incredibly disruptive.
“It will really mean that many businesses and factories simply cannot operate effectively because they don’t have the necessary battery storage or backups. They want people to use less electricity, that’s why they engage in load shedding.”
“When people close the doors and shut up shop and go home, that’s helping them by reducing demand and helping keeping supply and demand in balance,” Yelland said.
While former president Jacob Zuma promised that there would never be load shedding again, Yelland said the problem is insurmountable and going on since 2008.
Yelland said the problem of load shedding can be solved, solved quickly and at low cost.
“De Ruyter has made this very clear in that we need about 6,000MW to 10,000MW of new generation fast, if you do that, the level of load shedding will drop immediately. We not going to do it through government procurements, because it is too slow.”
“There are many people who can deliver 10,000MW in two years and that is allowing customers to become part of the solution and to install what we call self-generation, distributor generation and embedded generation at their own cost, using their own resources.”
Yelland said the Minerals Council of South Africa, Business Unity South Africa and many other electricity customers are ready to act and provide the additional generation demand.
“The role of government is really simple: To allow this to take place through some changes in the law and in the regulation; To facilitate and encourage it and to incentivize it. That’s all government needs to do.”
They don’t have to build anything, buy anything, procure anything, they don’t have to come up with the money. They just have to allow it, Yelland said.”
Yelland said the initiative will relieve government of a burden that it is unable to meet at present and it will reduce load shedding dramatically and quickly.