Eskom clarifies stage 15 load shedding warning for South Africa

Staff Writer29 September 2022

Eskom broken


Power utility Eskom has moved to clear up confusion around group CEO Andre de Ruyter’s warning of stage 15 load shedding in South Africa.

De Ruyter cautioned over such an extreme stage while addressing the Africa Renewables Investment Summit in Cape Town on Wednesday (28 September) saying: “Stage 15 load shedding. I don’t want to know what that looks like”.

The chief executive was explaining the consequences to South Africa’s power grid if Eskom were to be forced to comply with minimum emissions standards, adding that on top of having to pull 16,000MW of power from the grid – equivalent to 15 stages of load shedding – 100,000 jobs would be lost.

The warning, however, sent alarm bells ringing across the country, given the current state of the grid, where stage 5 and stage 6 load shedding has been more frequent and persisting for longer than ever before.

Eskom said on Thursday that De Ruyter was merely using the example of load shedding stages to illustrate a wider point about the impact of the emission standards.

The group is under pressure to adhere to minimum emissions standards at its power stations and, in 2021, had applied to have the requirements and timelines attached to its compliance postponed.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment rejected the applications, leaving the power utility in a precarious position. Eskom said it is in the process of appealing the decision.

“To comply with that decision, if it were to be implemented, would require the implementation of 15 stages of load shedding,” Eskom said.

“Mr De Ruyter was merely reiterating the hugely negative impact that would result for the country should that decision be implemented.”

Does stage 15 exist?

In a media briefing earlier in September, Eskom noted that its load shedding schedules only go up to stage 8, where 8,000MW is pulled from the grid.

If capacity issues go beyond this level, it is up to the System Operator to make specific determinations, per province, for how much additional power needs to be pulled.

Eskom said that load shedding is its last resort to prevent a nationwide blackout.

When the system is under strain, it first turns to voluntary or contracted emergency demand reduction where large energy consumers – mostly industrial – are asked to reduce their load on the grid.

If this fails to balance the demand, load shedding is implemented.

“If preventative measures, including load shedding, are insufficient – the national grid will collapse. A blackout is unforeseen, and therefore, the System Operator will not be able to make an announcement in advance,” it said.

“A national blackout will have massive implications, and every effort is made to prevent this from occurring. Depending on the nature of the emergency, it could take a few weeks for the grid to recover from a blackout.”

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