New regulations have been presented to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) detailing how Eskom should implement load-shedding up to stage 16 if necessary.
These regulations came from the National Rationalised Specifications (NRS) Association of South Africa, which sent its 3rd edition of regulations to Nersa.
Chair of the NRS, Vally Padayachee, explained to eNCA why these regulations had been written up and what stage 16 would look like.
Padayachee said, “It is all about planning for the unlikely event that load-shedding goes beyond stage 8”.
“Stage 16 was not included because it will happen, but rather because we cannot guarantee that we won’t go beyond stage 6 or even stage 8,” he said.
Without these new regulations, if load-shedding went beyond stage 8, the system operator, Eskom, and municipalities would have to go into an emergency contingency mode.
In this mode, unplanned steps would have to be taken to reduce demand to prevent a grid collapse.
Padayachee said that the 3rd edition outlines a nationally consistent response to load-shedding above stage 8, effectively taking decision-making out of the hands of local officials.
According to the new regulations, stage 16 would technically result in the entire load of the country being shed. Everything will be switched off in a structured fashion to prevent a grid collapse.
Loads deemed essential by Eskom in terms of safety, environmental impact, and economic impact may be exempted under stage 16.
Although Padayachee said that stage 16 is highly unlikely, previous NRS editions have proven to indicate the future severity of load-shedding.
The NRS’ first edition of load-shedding regulations in 2010 only went up to stage 4, which it considered unlikely then.
However, when South Africa reached stage 4 load-shedding in 2017, the NRS published the second edition, which went up to stage 8 – again, considered unlikely.
Padayachee admitted that while the probability of stage 16 is extremely low, it is not zero.
Reduced load-shedding is false hope
Padaychee also said that “we are not out of the woods yet”, despite improved generation performance resulting in lower stages of load-shedding.
“As professionals, we should not give the country a false sense of hope”, he said.
The significant test for Eskom will come at the end of July and early August, as demand tends to increase throughout winter and peak at the beginning of August.
Eskom’s generation fleet will come under pressure during this period.
However, decreased economic activity, increased usage of alternative power sources by the private sector, and improved Energy Availability Factor (EAF).
“Pragmatically, we are not out of the woods yet. We must wait and see,” Padaychee said.
According to Padayachee, load-shedding will take two years to solve, with demand management being the best short-term solution.