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2023-05-05 at 13:55 #403237Nat QuinnKeymaster
Eskom’s System Operator has updated its code of practice around load-shedding that will govern how municipalities must respond to Stage 9 or higher power cuts, News24 reports.
Chair of the National Rationalized Specifications (NRS) Association, Vally Padayachee, said the new code would be submitted to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) in the coming days.
Once approved by Nersa, the code holds legal status.
“There has been a lot of consultation, but we need to now put a stop date on it for the sake of the grid,” Padayachee said in an interview on Tuesday, 2 May 2023.
“We cannot guarantee that in winter, we will not go beyond Stage 8.”
He highlighted issues that could occur if South Africa were to go into Stage 9 load-shedding without a new code in place.
“Then the System Operator and municipal electricity distributors would have to use their own respective operating procedures to protect the national grid,” said Padayachee.
“In that environment, the propensity for human error is very possible.”
While he didn’t explicitly mention what could result from such human error, the codes of practice surrounding load-shedding are designed to protect the integrity of the grid.
Failure to follow the code, or the absence of the code, could result in the grid frequency fluctuating above or below 50Hz — the frequency that keeps the grid alive.
If this were to happen, the grid could collapse and plunge the country into darkness. Restarting the grid is difficult and time-consuming, and South Africa could be without power for weeks.
Eskom’s System Operator sets out how electrical load is shared among users, and the previous code only gave distributors directives up to Stage 8.
Each stage of Eskom’s rotational power cuts equals up to 1,000MW of load being shed. Under Stage 8, South African residents are subjected to 48 hours of power cuts in a four-day cycle of 96 hours.
Stage 9 load-shedding would require more hours, which is set out in the System Operator’s new code of practice.
Padayachee, in April 2023, said Eskom was reviewing the load-shedding framework to prepare for stages higher than Stage 8.
“Eskom’s grid is at a critical stage, and no professional can guarantee that South Africa could not go beyond stage 8 load-shedding,” he said.
Stage 9 is on the cards this winter
In April 2023, energy expert Clyde Mallinson revealed that South Africa could face Stage 9 load-shedding this winter during a load-shedding forecast presentation.
He said Eskom faces an 11,000MW shortfall in generation capacity, which would likely mean 2,000MW load-curtailment and Stage 9 load-shedding will be necessary.
Load-curtailment is used to reduce demand on the grid from energy-intensive users like mines and smelters.
Stage 9 load-shedding would mean that households and regular businesses are without power for more than half the day.
“I hope if we do touch stage 9, it will be for very brief periods, like between 17:00 and 20:00 at night,” said Mallinson.
Professor Mark Swilling, co-director of the Centre for Sustainability Transitions at the University of Stellenbosch, concurs with Mallinson’s prediction.
He said the current load-shedding situation would worsen as winter sets in if there is no improvement to Eskom’s generation performance.
He advised that South African brace for higher stages of load-shedding as demand on the grid increases.
Mallinson’s prediction aligns with information shared by Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
Ramokgopa said the state-owned power utility would face a shortfall of 8,000 to 11,000 megawatts this winter — which could mean stage 8 to stage 11 load-shedding.
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