/ 15 May 2023

Stage six load-shedding brought forward

Load Shedding Eskom
A general view shows trails of lights from passing vehicles in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, which is submerged in darkness due to load-shedding

As temperatures continue to drop, Eskom looks set to deliver its promise of a dark cold winter ahead.

On Monday, power utility Eskom announced that stage six load-shedding was to be implemented from 3pm, an hour earlier than it had announced on Sunday. 

“Please note that this will be implemented until 5am tomorrow.” The utility then said that it would rotate between stage four as previously communicated.

By Monday there had been almost 30 days of stage six load-shedding this year. In total, there have been 134 days of load-shedding this year

Electricity minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa recently said that the country will have a hard winter as Eskom’s power units continue to crumble.

Graphic taken from EskomSePush and The Outlier

Can’t cope with the cold

On Monday, the utility blamed the sudden increase to stage six load-shedding on the cold weather, saying that the demand for electricity is higher and therefore it couldn’t manage and had to bring stage six earlier than planned. There were also failures at two generating units. 

On Sunday, South Africa’s power utility announced that the country would rotate between stage four and stage six load-shedding for the week. Stage four was meant to be from 5am until 4pm and stage six was to take over the next slot. 

The utility attributed this to breakdowns of around 18 000MW and maintenance of close to 4 000MW. 

The problems were at Kriel, Matla, Arnot, Camden, Kendal, Hendrina and Tutuka power stations, which all had difficulties either in breakdowns or restoration.

But on Monday the weather turned colder and wetter in parts of the country, which invariably led to stage six being brought forward.

Graphic taken from EskomSePush and The Outlier.

Increasing load-shedding

Last week the utility announced that it had been able to update its national standard document [the NRS048-9] which enables the utility to increase its load-shedding stages beyond stage eight.

Eskom told the Mail & Guardian that the  NRS 048-9 revision proposes load-shedding schedules up to “stage 16 to make load-shedding systematic and orderly”.

The utility has also delayed releasing its winter outlook. On Friday, Ramokgopa said the utility board and the ministers had been unable to agree on the winter outlook plan presented and had sent it back for revision.

Despite the sudden increase to stage six, Ramokgopa dismissed fears about the utility having a total blackout.

During the media briefing, Ramokgopa explained that the utility’s power grid has a safety feature that enables it to protect itself in times of immense pressure.

The utility reiterated its call for people to switch off appliances like geysers between 5pm and 9pm to alleviate pressure on the power system. 

Mandisa Nyathi is a climate reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa