Eskom has selected customers to partner with it in a pilot programme to reduce demand during the evening peak, which the utility calls load-limiting.
This is part of the measures announced by Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to end load-shedding by balancing supply and demand.
If implemented correctly, this programme could bring load-shedding to an end in the near future, according to Eskom.
Households consume roughly 16% of all Eskom’s installed capacity, and during peak times, this rises to 35%.
Half of this consumption is from geysers. Thus, as part of the solution to end load-shedding, the government wants to ensure that geysers are turned off when not in use.
Ramokgopa clarified that this does not mean South Africans will not have hot water when needed. Instead, they will only have hot water when they need it.
According to the government’s estimates, turning off geysers can save 3,500MW of electricity. They aim to reduce the demand from geysers by a minimum of 1,000MW.
South Africans turning off geysers “contributes to the resolution of the energy crisis” and will also result in significant savings for consumers.
More details were revealed earlier this week, with various pilot programmes for Eskom’s smart meters launched in Fourways and Cape Town.
Load-limiting is separate from the rollout of smart meters, and the programme calls on South Africans to reduce their electricity consumption during the evening peak for the greater good.
Energy expert Hilton Trollip explained this new programme as “load-shifting” rather than load-limiting. It aims to flatten the peak evening demand by moving it later into the evening or earlier in the afternoon.
Eskom is unable to meet peak demand in the evenings. Hence the implementation of stage 3 load-shedding to artificially reduce this demand below supply.
Load-limiting aims to flatten this peak by encouraging households to consume more electricity during off-peak hours and less during the evening peak.
The utility currently appeals to customers to do this for the greater good and to end load-shedding. There are no monetary incentives.
However, Trollip said that the public is no longer willing to cooperate with Eskom as the utility has lost its credibility.
Thus, it has had to roll out smart meters to enforce load-limiting as these meters enable the government to remotely control household appliances, particularly geysers.
Trollip said load-shifting is standard practice in many countries. However, it is not enforced on the population through government control of household appliances.
Rather, many developed economies use time-of-use tariffs to increase the price of electricity during peak hours, encouraging consumers to use less.
These tariffs also charge less for electricity during off-peak periods to encourage households to use electricity when demand is low instead of when it is high.
This has proven to be effective in managing demand while saving consumers money.
South Africa has the capacity to implement such a system, yet it has never been considered.