Eskom hiding truth about load-shedding

Eskom denied that it secretly implemented stage 8 load-shedding this past week, but the reality is even worse than what it tells the public.

On Thursday, 13 April 2023, Eskom said it implemented load-shedding of 7,072MW. The power utility’s definition states that load-shedding above 7,000MW is stage 8.

However, Eskom explained that the 7,072MW load-shedding included “stage 6 and load-curtailment stage 4”.

Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena explained that the 7,072MW shed consisted of 5,719MW national load-shedding and 1,353MW load curtailment.

Load curtailment allows Eskom to demand that contractually obligated high-demand users like smelters reduce their consumption.

NRS Association of South Africa’s Vally Padayachee confirmed that over 7,000MW was taken off the grid on Thursday.

However, despite Eskom taking over 7,000MW off the national grid, the load-shedding stage the public faced on Thursday was stage 6.

“Realistically, 7,000MW could have been taken off the grid, but the instruction given by national control was stage 6,” Padayachee said.

The confusion results from Eskom reporting load-shedding in its daily updates, not the more accurate “manual load reduction” (MLR).

MLR is an estimation of the demand that has been reduced due to load-shedding and/or curtailment.

Padayachee explained that national control used load-curtailment to reduce the electricity shortfall from over 7,000MW to below 6,000MW.

It means that the public only faced stage 6 load-shedding, and other clients faced more significant power cuts.

Bad news for South Africa

Energy expert Hilton Trollip

Energy expert Hilton Trollip said load-curtailment might seem like a good solution to reduce the load-shedding stage, but it causes severe damage to the economy.

Trollip is an independent consultant in energy research and a global risk governance programme research fellow.

He said the gap between supply and demand exceeded 7,000MW on Thursday. “If Eskom had to use only load-shedding to solve the shortfall, it would have needed a stage 8 schedule,” he said.

What they did instead was to cut supply to large industrial customers as part of an interruptible supply contract.

It comes at a cost. When Eskom cuts supply to big industrial customers, it pays a penalty and loses revenue from electricity sales.

It also comes at a high cost to the economy as it loses production from the large electricity customers.

Despite the negative effects, Eskom seems fanatical about not exceeding stage 6 public load-shedding, which means they prefer to cut power to large industrial customers.

Trollip warned that taxpayers would pay because of the rising Eskom debt, and the economy would suffer with job cuts and slow growth.

Eskom should play open cards about its strategy and decisions, he said. “Not communicating makes us worry about their honesty,” he said.

He said Eskom has, up to now, been quite good about the facts they gave the public. “I think this is a slip-up, and they need to sort out their communications.”


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