With stage 2 load shedding making an unwelcome return on Saturday after just 14 hours of relief, many South Africans across the country will be pulling out the candles and loading up their generators with diesel for who knows how long.
Power utility Eskom announced on Saturday afternoon that four more units in its ageing fleet of power stations broke down overnight, leading to a shortage of capacity.
Stage 2 load shedding is in effect until further notice, it said. This comes after load shedding entered stage 1 on Friday and was suspended at midnight.
The last break the country got was on the weekend of 7 October, when load shedding was suspended after 32 consecutive days of blackouts – but only for a day or so.
By now, South Africans are accustomed to getting out their load shedding schedules and planning their days around the blackouts, but several discrepancies have turned up.
Most areas are switched off for about two hours at a time when rolling blackouts strike – but some have their time in the dark extended by an hour. Other areas – like Soweto – have been flagged for not having any load shedding at all sometimes, raising eyebrows from neighbouring areas that are still subjected to blackouts.
Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, the Department of Public Enterprises moved to clear up any confusion about these discrepancies.
The department said that all municipalities are supposed to implement load shedding as stipulated in the NRS048-9 specifications, which energy regulator Nersa has accepted as a licence requirement.
Out of approximately 220 municipalities, only 20 implement load shedding from their side – the rest are loadshed by Eskom, it said.
“The metropolitan municipalities largely comply with the schedule, except for the City of Ekurhuleni, as it does not have a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system that would enable the municipality to remotely implement load shedding.
“Therefore, the City of Ekurhuleni implements load shedding over a period of three hours as opposed to two hours. The extra hour is used for manually switching customers back on after load shedding, and this is a resource-intensive exercise,” it said.
The load shedding breakdown is as follows:
- In Stages 1, 2 and 3, customers are loadshed for two (2) hours once in 32 hours;
- In Stage 4, customers are loadshed for two (2) hours four times in 32 hours;
- In Stage 5, customers are loadshed four (4) hours once in 32 hours and for two hours three times within the same period (32 hours);
- In Stage 6, customers are loadshed for four (4) hours twice in 32 hours and two hours twice within the same period (32 hours);
- In Stage 7 and 8 follow a similar pattern. however, these. have not been resorted to up to now.
The department said that the same principle is applied in Soweto for load shedding. It noted that Eskom is not aware of any deviation from the schedule in the town – however, at times, Eskom does experience technical challenges whereby it is unable to open or close breakers, and this affects the duration of load shedding.
This happens in many different areas, and is not only limited to Soweto, it said.
While residents of Ekurhuleni are forced to deal with an extra hour of load shedding in their schedules,, and the country as a whole continues to suffer as the electricity grid collapses, cabinet ministers can rest easy, with no load shedding at their official residences in Pretoria, and free electricity and generators paid for by taxpayers.
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Read: Stage 2 load shedding is back – here’s the schedule