Clarity blackouts — is Eskom keeping SA in the dark about Stage 8 load shedding?
Indications are that rolling blackouts went further than Stage 6 but the state-owned power utility has not bothered to inform the public.
Both Eskom and Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa are remaining mum on reports that South Africa has been plunged into Stage 8 rolling blackouts.
Power cuts could last up to six straight hours if Koeberg’s Unit 2, the last functional unit at the nuclear power facility which tripped on Saturday, 15 April, is not brought back onto the grid.
The Daily Investor reported that Eskom’s rolling blackouts hit 7,072MW on Thursday, 13 April. This, according to the power utility’s own definitions, equates to Stage 8.
The power utility Tweeted on Thursday that its evening peak data showed that total demand was 30,747MW, while generation capacity was 23,771MW.
Feedback from Evening Peak
13 April 2023 pic.twitter.com/WQi4j4Qp49
— Eskom Hld SOC Ltd (@Eskom_SA) April 13, 2023
According to Eskom, a single stage requires Eskom to shed up to 1,000MW of electricity. Stage 8 requires 7,001MW to 8,000MW to be cut.
Read more in Daily Maverick: How to beat load shedding at home… and other ideas
Ramokgopa warned last week that Eskom faced a shortfall of 8,000MW to 10,000MW this winter, which equates to Stage 10 power cuts.
The country has been on Stage 6 since 12 April. Eskom said this would continue “until further notice”. There are currently no functioning units at Koeberg.
Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena told Daily Maverick:
“It is not true that we have implemented Stage 8 load shedding. On the day in question Eskom load-shed at Stage 6, 5,719MW, and also called for Stage 4 load curtailment, 1,353MW, from participating customers who responded by reducing their own load. Load curtailment is well described on NRS048-9.
“This could be also verified by the load shedding schedules used on the day, which [were] definitely Stage 6 schedules and that was what the public experienced.”
When asked by the Sunday Times if that did not equate to Stage 8 power cuts, Mokwena is reported to have said: “[The] load that was reduced, which is the correct terminology, is indeed more than 6,000MW. We refrain from using the terminology because the public becomes confused and thinks we are talking about load reduction that we normally implement when not load-shedding to prevent failing of equipment due to overload.”
This is not the first time the country dipped further than Stage 6. In February, then-Eskom spokesperson Sikhonathi Mantshantsha said the power utility was shedding 7,045MW of electricity without announcing that it had moved beyond Stage 6.
Evening Peak Feedback 21/02/2023, 19:15
Total demand: 30 480MW
Loadshedding: 7 045MW
Eskom OCGT’s Utilised: 14
Eskom GT’s Utilised: 3
IPP OCGT’s: 5
Renewable Gen: 1 262MW (Wind 791MW, CSP 390MW, PV 81MW)@Eskom_SA Available Generation: 23 289MW
— SikonathiMantshantsh (@SikonathiM) February 21, 2023
Eskom said on Sunday afternoon that unplanned breakdowns were at 17,481MW of generating capacity, and another 5,657MW of generating capacity was offline for maintenance.
“Apart from other generation challenges, the current situation is exacerbated by the loss of four major units which are on extended outages,” Eskom said in a statement on Friday. “The unavailability of the three units at Kusile and the unit at Koeberg 1 has removed 3,080MW of capacity from the grid. This is equivalent to three stages of load shedding.”
Dr Zwanani Mathe, CEO of the South African National Energy Development Institute, said: “It is indeed concerning how Eskom is reporting on load shedding stages lately. The situation will get worse if Koeberg Unit 2 does not return tomorrow morning or another big unit trip. I expected Eskom or the electricity minister to brief the nation today.”
Ramokgopa could not be reached for comment. DM