The Difference Between Load Shedding and Load Curtailment

South Africa continues to battle with widespread power outages due to Eskom’s load shedding schedules. Eskom recently implemented stage 6 load shedding, but there are reports that the state-owned electricity supplier may have technically hit stages 7 and 8. However, load curtailment is preventing Eskom from moving past stage 6 – for the time being.

What is Load Curtailment and Load Shedding?

Load curtailment is a practice that Eskom uses wherein large power users are directly asked to reduce their power usage. Companies are subjected to different stages of load curtailment, depending on the level of load shedding implemented. In contrast, load shedding is the rotational blackout of electricity supply which determines which areas are made powerless.

Eskom has been able to avoid declaring higher load shedding stages by enforcing load curtailment to manage the energy demand. Large power-users are asked to reduce power consumption, reducing the strain on the grid. Four different stages of load curtailment are observed by Eskom depending on the severity of power shortages:

  • Stage 1 & 2: Companies are required to reduce their power consumption by 10%.
  • Stage 3: Companies are required to reduce their power consumption by 15%.
  • Stage 4: Companies are required to reduce their power consumption by 20%.
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The difference between load curtailment and load shedding is the way in which they are implemented. Load shedding is a rotation of a blackout of electricity supply, while load curtailment entails directly asking large power users to reduce their power usage, which puts pressure on these companies and harms their operations’ efficiency.

Negative Effect on Economy

Load curtailment has a significantly negative impact on the country’s economy. Members of the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG), who consume over 40% of the nation’s electricity, are placed under load curtailment and subjected to the four different stages of power usage reduction. According to EIUG CEO, Fanele Mondi, any load curtailment beyond stage 4 would result in “essential loads,” a situation where all mining personnel should be moved back to the surface, and power is only used to sustain the system, preventing it from collapsing.

Moreover, reports suggest that Eskom is losing revenue from electricity sales and paying penalties to energy-intensive users when it reduces power usage. In addition, taxpayers will have to pay for Eskom’s increasing debt, while the economy slows down, ultimately leading to job cuts.

Tough Times Ahead

Looking at the current state of events, it is likely to be a challenging winter as Eskom warns of severe strain on the national grid due to various units being offline. Kusile and Medupi power stations have units that are offline while Koeberg unit 1 is undergoing life extension, and several other outages are occurring. Given this situation, load curtailment among energy-intensive users might continue, resulting in significant setbacks for the country’s economy.

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Many energy-intensive users have been looking to reduce their carbon footprint, and some are mulling to shift away from Eskom to renewable energy sources. However, many of these sources cannot sustain round-the-clock production, meaning these companies may still depend on Eskom for a ‘base load.’

Eskom’s load shedding has become a major concern in South Africa, and it continues to impact daily life, bringing significant economic consequences. The government should take responsibility and start infusing funds in Eskom to address these issues and help reduce the devastating load shedding impact on the economy.

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