Beyond Stage 8 Load Shedding: What Happens if Power Crisis Continues to Worsen

South African electricity provider, Eskom, has ramped up load shedding to Stage 6 indefinitely this week. With nearly half of Eskom’s generation capacity currently offline due to breakdowns, experts predict that customers may eventually experience up to Stage 10 load shedding this winter. South Africa is currently experiencing an over 6,000MW deficit according to independent energy analyst, Lungile Mashele. The power utility company can currently only supply 25,000MW against the electricity demand of about 31,000MW, indicating inadequate power supply and load shedding to continue for the foreseeable future.

Eskom CEO and the systems operator are expected to communicate their winter plan, provide information on their maintenance framework, and communicate emergency measures they plan on implementing to control load shedding. However, the industry’s production-levels are still expected to be hampered by power cuts and logistical bottlenecks.

A move beyond Stage 8 would herald not only load shedding, but electricity curtailment, requiring large energy users to further reduce their power usage. This development would negatively affect the economy and impact industry growth negatively. The industry’s activity that is energy-intensive is currently likely to have fallen by a further 6.2% YoY since March with no progress made on reducing load shedding.

At present, the National Rationalization Specifications (NRS) association is finalizing new protocols that deal with Stage 9 load shedding and beyond. The NRS has been consulting widely and is set to submit the protocol to the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) shortly. Eskom, industry users, and the SA public need to plan for more extended periods of load shedding and electricity curtailment, which could have severe economic effects.

In other news, following the recent high court judgment that ordered Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to take all reasonable steps to ensure that public health establishments, state schools, and police stations are exempted from load shedding within 60 days, Gordhan’s department is appealing the judgment. Gordhan’s department believes that the judgment would have unintended consequences and undermine the ongoing efforts to balance the protection of the rights that were ventilated in this case while stabilizing and protecting grid infrastructure.

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Industry experts believe that the ongoing load shedding is due to a lack of infrastructure investment and maintenance. The government and Eskom need to prioritize setting up new power plants and work towards renewable energy while taking a long-term approach to addressing the country’s power needs and reducing load shedding.