South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, recently confirmed that a new national standards document proposes providing load-shedding schedules up to Stage 16. Eskom says it aims to prevent grid collapse should load-shedding beyond Stage 8 become necessary. However, there are some practical limitations on industrial plants. This news comes amid growing concern over Eskom’s recent peak demand figures, which many feared could push the country into Stage 7 load-shedding. Additionally, there are concerns that Eskom’s proposed increase in load-curtailed power frequency could lead to human error and a potential grid collapse.
What is Load-Shedding and Load-Curtailment?
Load-shedding is a measure that Eskom uses to reduce demand on the national grid when there isn’t enough energy to meet the demand. In contrast, load-curtailment is a mechanism Eskom uses to reduce demand from energy-intensive users in South Africa, such as mines and smelters, in exchange for compensation. Load-curtailment is a preferred measure because it doesn’t disrupt residents, but it has practical limitations, and the maximum level of load-curtailment is already active.
Eskom’s Proposed Stage 16 Load-Shedding
The National Standards document (NRS048-9 Revision 3) proposes to make load-shedding systematic and orderly by providing schedules up to Stage 16. Eskom assigns responsibility for this to individual provinces, and they will be directed by the Eskom System Operator. Eskom’s proposed rollout of Stage 16 comes after considerable consultation with energy industry experts, including the Energy Regulator of South Africa. Eskom’s System Operator has the responsibility of ensuring the stability of South Africa’s national grid and sets the level of load-shedding necessary to achieve it. Load-shedding beyond Stage 8 is something new, and there are no pre-defined schedules for implementing it.
Security Issues with Load-Curtailment
Eskom’s proposed increase in load-curtailed power is also concerning, as it could result in errors and a total grid collapse, plunging the country into darkness for an extended period. Restarting the grid is difficult and time-consuming, and South Africa may not have power for one to two weeks. The propensity for human error rises with an increase in load-curtailed power, and the absence of a Code of Practice could leave municipal electricity distributors unprotected and reliant on their own procedures to protect the national grid.
Eskom’s Plan to Ensure Stability
Eskom assured that the System Operator guarantees reserve availability at all times to respond immediately to unforeseen events, such as a generator trip. Automatic protection schemes are also in place to reduce demand and normalise the power system in case of sudden generator trips. While Eskom continues to work hard towards stabilising the national grid, South Africans can do their part in avoiding power cuts by using electricity sparingly.
While Eskom’s proposed increase in load-curtailed power is a concern, its proposed rollout of Stage 16 load-shedding schedules is a necessary step towards mantaining the stability of South Africa’s national grid. The revised Code of Practice for load-shedding is crucial in preventing a grid collapse, and Eskom will work with the Energy Regulator of South Africa to ensure its quick adoption. South Africans must continue conserving energy to avoid power cuts and help stabilize the national grid.