The enforcement of load shedding is a result of the nationwide electricity demand outstripping what Eskom is currently able to provide, according to the company’s Western Cape Operating Unit general manager, Alwie Lester. This comes amidst a major energy crisis that has further deterred public approval towards the country’s only electricity utility provider.
South Africans have expressed disdain since the reintroduction of scheduled power cuts in early November. Apart from being subjected to regular blackouts, the cuts are also expected to have a major impact on the economy, with suggestions that it may lead to severe job losses.
Lester, who sought to bring more clarity to the current situation, said the implementation of load shedding was motivated by several issues. With countrywide demand and usage ever on the rise, Eskom was at present simply unable to keep. At the same time, they forced to contend with the maintenance of an aged fleet of power plants.
“It is really a situation of supply and demand, and us not being able to meet it over peak periods,” he explained.
The situation has not been helped by delays in the construction of two new power plants, the Medupi and Kusile stations, which were meant to help ease the load on the current units.
As a result of the energy crisis, Eskom have been forced to conduct daily, weekly and monthly forecasts of what usage will be like during a particular period. Lester explained that if it was concluded that they would be unable to meet the demand at that time, and if all ‘additional capacities’ were also exhausted, the last option would be to enforce load shedding.
“We know it has a negative impact on the economy as well as on the people of the country. But it is effectively a way in which we can rotate the load reduction across the country, to make sure we are able to meet the majority of the requirement,” he explained.
He stressed that without the scheduled power cuts; there was a risk of a complete nationwide blackout.
The load shedding is enforced in three stages, dependent on the severity of the shortage. Stage 1 power cuts meant that Eskom are 1000MW short of the demand, whereas Stage 2 is a supply shortage of over 2000MW. Stage 3, which may compromise two scheduled cuts a day, is as a result of a 4000MW shortage.
Lester concluded that during the enforcement of load shedding Eskom would need to adhere to a number of key principles, including being transparent, equitable and fair. This was to ensure certain areas were not receiving preferential treatment, and that cuts were equally rotated amongst all communities.
“It means that you have to make sure everybody has the same experiences over the period of time. It also has to be transparent, which means people should be able to see from the schedules when they are out, and when they are going to be back on,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)