South Africans should brace themselves for the worst darkness since load shedding began, as load shedding up to stage 16, meaning an undetermined 32 hours of power outages, is expected to avert the grid’s catastrophic failure due to growing demand.
The National Regulatory Services Association of SA, a voluntary association that helps regulate load shedding, is currently finalising a document titled “voluntary” NRS048-9 edition 3, which would allow Eskom to implement drastic load shedding beyond stage 8.
Confirming the document, Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena stated that its instructions would be enforced only if there were emergencies threatening to bring the system down, which may happen during the winter.
Mokwena said, “But with what we are seeing in terms of how the system is behaving, the current system does not show that we can go to that stage.”
Vally Padayachee, head of the NRS management committee and a former group executive in Eskom’s generating division, has defended load shedding as required to avoid the catastrophic implications of a blackout caused by total grid collapse due to future excessive demand.
The draught document has yet to be sent to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa for “legal mandating consideration” by NRS. Once granted, however, it will become a legal licencing for all power utilities, including Eskom and municipalities.
According to Mokwena, this paper allowed for load shedding up to stage 16.
Charles Hlebela, a spokesperson for Nersa, declined to comment.
“The NRS048-9 edition 3 proposes (a) load-shedding schedule up to stage 16 in order to make load shedding systematic and orderly,” Mokwena said.
She stated that the existing load-shedding regulations, as outlined in the NRS048-9 edition 2 document, allow electricity suppliers to undertake load-shedding up to stage 8. However, according to Eskom’s schedule, only stage-6 load shedding has been required thus far.
“In 2022, during the updating of NRS048-9 edition 3, the system operator, through the industry working group, requested stages 9 to 16 to be included in the code of practice.
“A prudent power industry plans ahead so that, in the unlikely event that higher stages are required now or in the future, these are prepared ahead of time and can be implemented in a controlled, systematic manner. The edition 3 of NRS048-9 makes this provision,” she said.
Mokwena said that if load-shedding stages beyond stage 8 were implemented, they “would be managed in the same way as the stages 1 to 8”.
“Most municipalities and Eskom-supplied areas have adopted a two-hour load-shedding schedule. On a two-hour load-shedding schedule, you would expect to be off for 32 hours in a 32-hour period (under stage 16),” she said.
Mokwena was unable to identify a means to simplify the hours of load shedding each day for the benefit of laypeople under stage 16, stating that this will be explained after the draught was authorised.
However, Mokwena attempted to calm concerns about worst-case scenarios involving the eventual adoption of up to stage-16 load shedding.
“With the system, I cannot say I guarantee, but with what we are seeing in terms of how the system is behaving, the current system does not show that we can go to that stage (16).
“Currently, we are on stage 6, but our system obviously at the current moment doesn’t seem to be moving towards that direction of 16,” Mokwena said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said: “I’m not aware of such a proposal. Please check with Eskom.”
Public Enterprises spokesperson Ellis Mnyandu said Eskom “will be best-placed to assist you in this regard”.