Eskom stage 7 and 8 load-shedding confusion

Eskom continues to report stage 6 load-shedding for electricity shortages ranging between 5,001MW to over 7,000MW, which creates tremendous confusion.

Load-shedding is a controlled way and legal requirement for Eskom to ensure that the national power grid remains stable.

Simply put, when Eskom does not have enough electricity to meet demand, it starts to cut power to certain areas to reduce demand and avoid a grid collapse.

Eskom explained that it decides on the stage of load-shedding depending on the number of megawatts needed to balance the grid.

Eskom clearly defines what each load-shedding stage means based on the number of megawatts it cuts.

  • Stage 1 — Up to 1,000MW cut from the national grid.
  • Stage 2 — 1,001 to 2,000MW cut from the national grid.
  • Stage 3 — 2,001 to 3,000MW cut from the national grid.
  • Stage 4 — 3,001 to 4,000MW cut from the national grid.
  • Stage 5 — 4,001 to 5,000MW cut from the national grid.
  • Stage 6 — 5,001 to 6,000MW cut from the national grid.
  • Stage 7 — 6,001 to 7,000MW cut from the national grid.
  • Stage 8 — 7,001 to 8,000MW cut from the national grid.

This is straightforward and gives everyone a good idea of the impact of load-shedding, and the power cuts the country experiences.

Many economists and financial institutions, including the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), used these load-shedding stages to calculate the impact on the economy.

The SARB, for example, makes forecasts using the average stages of load-shedding and the number of days power cuts were implemented.

It has estimates on the cost per stage of load-shedding, which ranges from R0 to R1.2 million for stages 1 and 2 and up to R204 to R899 million for stages 3 to 6.

The reported load-shedding stage, therefore, has a big influence on GDP forecasts from influential institutions like the Reserve Bank.

Initially, Eskom’s reported load-shedding stages aligned with the definitions based on megawatts cut from the grid.

However, in recent months, the power utility started to deviate significantly from its definitions when reporting load-shedding stages.

For example, on numerous days when it cut well over 7,000MW, it reported stage 6 load-shedding. It is stage 8 load-shedding, by definition.

Eskom explained that load-shedding was split into “load-shedding” and “load curtailment”, which is why the load-shedding stages and megawatts cut from the grid don’t align.

For example, the 7,072MW cut from the grid on 13 April consisted of 5,719MW national load-shedding and 1,353MW load curtailment.

The problem with Eskom’s latest reporting is that it breaks the economic models which rely on load-shedding stages.

5,100MW cut from the grid is now treated the same as 7,100MW cut from the grid, as Eskom reports both as stage 6.

The impact of a 7,100MW shortfall is significantly worse than 5,100MW, which means the latest load-shedding stages give a poor view of the impact on the economy.

In February, former Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha confirmed that the System Operator implemented stage 7 load-shedding during evening peak demand periods.

Mantshantsha said that, at times, the demand could exceed the previously announced load-shedding estimate.

“As you will see in the figures, it is accurate to say at that particular time last night, load-shedding was stage 7,” he explained in February.

The table below shows Eskom’s stage load-shedding reporting over the last few months which illustrates the stage confusion.

DateEskom stage announcedElectricity shed (MW)Actual stage
20 February 2023Stage 66,595MWStage 7
21 February 2023Stage 67,045MWStage 8
22 February 2023Stage 67,092MWStage 8
23 February 2023Stage 66,061MWStage 7
13 April 2023Stage 67,072MWStage 8
8 May 2023Stage 66,376MWStage 7
9 May 2023Stage 66,555MWStage 7
10 May 2023Stage 66,512MWStage 7
26 May 2023Stage 65,272 MWStage 6
27 May 2023Stage 65,089 MWStage 6
28 May 2023Stage 65,121MWStage 6
29 May 2023Stage 66,777MWStage 7
30 May 2023Stage 66,432MWStage 7

Energy experts say Eskom’s reporting is inaccurate

Energy expert Adil Nchabeleng said Eskom has most likely decided not to inform the public when it exceeds stage 6 load-shedding.

“Eskom has made a decision to cap its announcements at stage 6 load-shedding, avoiding announcing stage 8 or higher load-shedding,” he said.

“They are giving us the impression that everything is oscillating around stage 6, which is a lie. It is beyond stage 6 when considering the frequency of power cuts.”

Pick n Pay CEO Pieter Boone also said parts of the country are already experiencing stage 8 load-shedding, which impacts food supply and creates water shortages.

Pick n Pay told Daily Investor it has stores in parts of the country which have experienced power outages beyond the official numbers for prolonged periods.

Energy analyst Chris Yelland said Eskom’s systems operator is receiving many complaints from people about load-shedding hours longer than what is specified for stage 6.

“I know for a fact there are certain municipalities are load-shedding certain areas differently to others – you may say in a discriminatory fashion,” Yelland said.

“So, it is happening where some areas experience higher load shedding stages than what is public knowledge,” he said.

CSIR senior researcher Monique le Roux also argued that Eskom had exceeded stage 6 load-shedding this year, despite the power utility vehemently denying it.

Le Roux said that although Eskom does not like it, the country is currently in stage 7 load-shedding, as up to 7,000MW of electricity is unavailable from the grid.

“Eskom seems to have a drive to avoid as much as possible to avoid announcing stage 7 load-shedding,” she said.

“Technically, we can say that we have been in stage 7 load-shedding because 7,000MW has been unavailable and unsupplied.”


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