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2023-05-18 at 13:43 #405104Nat QuinnKeymaster
Readers from around South Africa responded to a Daily Maverick question about the number of load shedding hours they experience daily, with 360 respondents saying they are without power for more than 10 hours.
Eskom is currently implementing Stage 4 load shedding from 5am to 4pm daily, and Stage 6 from 4pm to 5am daily. This was triggered by breakdowns and delays in repairs at power stations, which added to capacity constraints. The power utility said on Sunday this would continue until “further notice”.
Winter is biting and Eskom is cushioning peak demand with evening power cuts. On Tuesday, during the evening peak, the power utility shed 6,222MW from the grid.
Fears that a grid collapse was looming were sparked earlier this week by EFF leader Julius Malema’s doomsday warning that South Africans would be in total darkness within two weeks. But Eskom has categorically denied claims of an imminent collapse of the national grid.
“Eskom refutes these claims and would like to assure South Africans that there are measures in place to avoid the collapse of the power system. Load shedding is one of these mechanisms.
“The risk of a national blackout, while inherent to the operation of a large power system, has an extremely low likelihood of materialising given the implementation of a number of control measures, including load shedding.
“The grid is by no means at a higher or imminent risk of a collapse and it would take an unforeseen and sudden sequence of events that results in a cascading collapse of the transmission or generation system, leading to a complete loss of supply across the country,” the power utility said on Tuesday.
Last week, in a Daily Maverick poll, we asked readers:
“It feels like we’re getting more hours of load shedding than Stage 6 usually means. How many hours of load shedding do you experience a day?”
Daily Maverick received 579 responses to this question, with most (341) saying they were experiencing load shedding for between 10 and 12 hours a day.
Readers from around the country – including Parys in the Free State; Marloth Park in Mpumalanga; Southbroom in KwaZulu-Natal; Greyton in the Western Cape; and Ekurhuleni in Gauteng – said they were suffering from blackouts of between 10 and 12 hours a day, with most averaging 11 hours without electricity.
One hundred and forty of our readers told us they were without power for between eight and 10 hours a day.
(Daily Maverick has published articles before on responses from our readers about their rolling blackout experiences. Read them here and here.)
“My family and I experience 10 hours of load shedding in a day,” reader Vusi Shabalala said last week.
Denise Kahn, who lives in Kensington, Western Cape, said she was experiencing “too many [hours of load shedding] to count. I live alone and fear for my life should there be intruders during load shedding”.
Another reader, from Botrivier in the Western Cape, said last week that he had experienced eleven-and-a-half-hours of blackouts for three days.
Dallas King said he was experiencing 10 hours of blackouts a day in Howick, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
“Fortunately I am retired, so I do not have to endure the frustrations that most business people are going through.
“But having said that, we definitely have had to change our normal routines such as cooking meals at different times, visiting government offices only when they are able to be online, and keeping as little as possible in the freezers so as not to suffer too much loss if, for any reason, the power is not restored when scheduled,” King told Daily Maverick on Wednesday.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Please be patient, your call will be answered’ – we test four key SA government hotlines
Another respondent, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was experiencing between nine and 10 hours of load shedding a day in Richmond, KZN. She said that after power outages, they were often without water.
Only 10 of 579 total respondents said they experienced no load shedding. Some respondents indicated this was because they had exited the state power utility’s grid with the use of solar power, or simply ditched the dark by emigrating.
Eskom’s stages of grief
If you live in Cape Town, you may be experiencing lower stages of load shedding thanks to the use of a hydro pump station at the Steenbras Dam. On 17 May, City of Cape Town customers were experiencing Stage 4 and 6 power cuts. (Check @CityofCT on Twitter for regular load shedding updates.)
Joburg City Power customers were also experiencing Stage 4 and 6 load shedding on 17 May. (You can check @CityPowerJhb on Twitter for regular updates.)
Read more in Daily Maverick: Shedding some light on Eskom’s eight stages of grief and pain
According to information on Eskom’s website, customers on Stage 6 can expect to be shed up to 12 times over a four-day period: six times for two hours and six times for four hours. But reader responses to our question seem to indicate that readers are in darkness for more hours than Stage 6 prescribes.
In response to a question from Daily Maverick about the number of hours a day customers will experience blackouts during Stage 6, senior researcher from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Monique le Roux, explained: “Eskom (and the larger municipalities who do their own load shedding) have divided their total customer (load) base into 16 blocks. Each block represents 5% of the total load of the area (or municipality).
“So for example, Eskom works per province and each province will be divided into 16 blocks and each block is 5% of the total load in the province. In Stage 1, one block is switched off per two-hour load shedding slot. In Stage 2, two blocks are switched off per two-hour load shedding slot etc. Because there are 12 slots per day (2 x 12 = 24 hours in the day) and 16 blocks, not all the blocks will have equal amounts of load shedding each day of the month. So on Stage 6, six blocks will be switched off per two-hour load shedding slot, but this means that customers will experience eight hours of load shedding some days and 10 hours on another day and maybe the odd day of 12 hours per day; so it is never going to be the same for each day on Stage 6, because they have to rotate through the 16 blocks each day and only have 12 slots to do so.”
Load shedding trends
Last year was dubbed by the CSIR as the most intensive load shedding year on record when it released its 2022 statistics on power generation and energy availability in February 2023. However, it seems 2023 could far surpass 2022 for the worst year for power cuts, with the prognosis for winter not looking good
South Africans suffered 3,773 hours of blackouts in 2022, compared with 1,169 hours in 2021, according to the CSIR data.
As of 16 May 2023, South Africans had experienced a total of 3,056 hours of blackouts this year – only 717 hours short of surpassing 2022’s record.
Additionally, last year we experienced 166 hours of Stage 6 load shedding. This has more than tripled in 2023 so far, with 659 hours clocked as of 16 May.
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