South Africans are bracing themselves for another winter of load shedding, adding to the structural problems that the country is already facing. The gloomy economic outlook seems to be exacerbated by the energy crisis, says Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the Minister of Electricity. To avoid an increase in load shedding beyond stage 6, the minister has called for demand-side energy reduction from consumers, encouraging businesses and households to limit their energy usage to reduce the pressure on the grid. Eskom, on the other hand, has proposed a four-year, R16bn smart-meter rollout to mitigate the energy crisis.
Why are we experiencing load shedding?
One of the main contributors to the load shedding is unreliable production units, which require maintenance and lengthy wait times for repairs. Ramokgopa believes that even with the financial incentives of Eskom’s Distribution Demand Management Programme, a more immediate intervention is necessary.
What can be done to tackle load shedding?
- Demand-side regulation: Introduced in 2008, the regulation required users with monthly energy consumption above 1 000 kWh to install smart meters and pay time-of-use tariffs before the start of 2012. Some controversy arose in 2015 when former DA City of Johannesburg caucus leader, Vasco Da Gama, raised concerns about their validity and accuracy. The essence of the proposal is to reduce demand pressure on the grid by limiting energy usage.
- Smart meter rollout: Eskom’s April proposal is to install smart meters to monitor and manage electricity usage. The meters would be able to detect when a household was exceeding its usage, send notifications to customers and even remotely switch off devices. The measure would cost R16bn over four years.
- Unit maintenance and recovery: The long-term solution to reducing load shedding is to address the underlying structural issues and ensure that units are reliable. Eskom also needs to reduce its debt and improve its balance sheet.
- Streamlining emergency power: Dicks suggests that Eskom should look into emergency procurement strategies that are currently available.
- Renewable energy sources: It is still a priority for the ANC to switch to green energy, as President Ramaphosa highlighted in Thursday’s parliamentary meeting.
Will we experience a nationwide blackout?
Ramakgopa has given assurance to the country that a nationwide blackout is highly unlikely. However, he acknowledges the toll the energy crisis has taken on breadwinners, who are now out of work due to energy and financial constraints. He stresses the importance of keeping the public informed about the developments regarding the energy crisis.
Load shedding remains a recurring problem in South Africa, posing structural problems to the economy. Eskom’s proposal to roll out smart meters may provide a long-term solution, but it will require immediate attention. The minister’s call for a demand-side energy reduction from consumers is one way to reduce the pressure on the grid. While many disapprove of the idea of switching off the power, it might be the only way to save the electricity crisis in South Africa and ensure the power supply to the country.