Load shedding. It’s been a plague for South Africans since 2007. And in 2019 reduced the country’s GDP growth by 0.30%, which translates to roughly R8.5 billion of real GDP (+$485 million).
But even though it has a catastrophic effect on the national economy and is the number one challenge that small business owners face, many locals and certainly foreigners still don’t know what the hell load shedding really is.
So let’s get down to it and answer one of the biggest questions hovering around South Africa.
What exactly is load shedding?
Load shedding is a measure of last resort taken by Eskom (South Africa’s largest producer of electricity) when power demand begins to exceed possible supply.
To avoid a nationwide blackout and total collapse of the power grid, Eskom rations the available supply between different districts according to a published schedule.
Basically, where you live dictates what time of day you’ll have electricity or be without.
Here’s an infographic for some visual interpretation.
Eskom’s load shedding timeline
Our Eskom load shedding timeline should shed some light as to why the country is still dealing with blackouts.
Eskom introduces load shedding
Former president Thabo Mbeki admits Eskom was correct in stating its decreasing capacity and that the government has neglected to attend to the crisis sooner. South Africans from schools, formal and informal businesses and households are hit by rolling blackouts.
Load shedding continues – Eskom is unequipped
The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) states that Eskom is unequipped & underdeveloped to handle South Africa’s fast growing economy.
After a 5 year break, load shedding returns
Diminished stockpiles of dry coal at some plants are to blame. 3 generating units in Mpumalanga at Kendal power station are continuously tripping.
99 Days of load shedding ensue
Despite former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe declaring that there’d be an end to load shedding, the country experiences 99 days of regular blackouts. The economy is hit hard, and the GDP is slowed. Molefe then unveils his new strategy, which focuses on maintenance and better management.
Former president Jacob Zuma states load shedding will no longer be a problem
Former president Jacob Zuma tells staff at Eskom’s Sunninghill headquarters that blackouts would no longer be an issue. He refers to a detailed report on how Eskom will eliminate the need for load shedding.
Gordhan warns of electricity cuts
South Africa is reintroduced to rolling blackouts as stage 1 and 2 load shedding commences. Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan says Medupi and Kusile power plants have experienced design flaws, which are affecting the production capabilities.
Load shedding jumps from stage 2 to stage 4
The power utility makes a quick jump from stage 2 to 4 load shedding. March sees blackouts lasting for weeks. Gordhan apologizes publicly, blaming the power cuts on plant breakdowns. President Cyril Ramaphosa says that R69 billion will be allocated to aiding the state utility. The Zondo Commission of Inquiry continues to investigate allegations of state capture and laundering of state resources at Eskom.
Both Gordhan and Mabuza speak out about load shedding
South Africans now face stage 6 load shedding after a long week of blackouts that have affected countless households and businesses across the nation. Heavy rainfall and a problem at the Medupi power plant are to blame. In an interview with eNCA, Eskom chairperson and acting CEO Jabu Mabuza said: “I don’t think we’re failing. I think some of the reasons we find ourselves is mainly the unreliability of the plant owing to maintenance not being done. The situation we find ourselves today is to make sure it’s controlled load-shedding. Stage 6 is not a calamity. It’s controlled to protect the system from total blackout.”
Load shedding continues
Stage 4 load shedding is initiated in March 2020 when the Koeberg Nuclear power station experiences technical difficulties, because one of the sea water cooling pumps failed.
What are the different load shedding stages?
As of 2020, there are a total of 8 stages. The higher the loadshedding stage, the more frequently you’ll experience electricity cuts.
How does it work?
The stage is determined by Eskom and depends on the number of megawatts needed to balance the power grid.
Once a schedule has been agreed upon, Eskom and the municipalities implement the loadshedding plan on a rotational basis.
Loadshedding will then commence for 2 – 4 hours at a time, depending on the stage and also on your area. For example, in stage 8 power will be turned off throughout the day for a total of 12 hours.
How South Africa generates electricity
Eskom accounts for 95% of all the electricity generated in South Africa. The country produces approximately 52 811 Mega Watt (MW).
Below, you can see how this energy is produced.
For comparison, we have listed the total MW-generating capacities of other countries around the world. Remember, South Africa has a generating capacity of 52,811 MW.
- USA: 1 200 000 MW
- France: 67 527 MW
- Germany: 211 000 MW
- Australia: 49 365 MW
- India: 372 000 MW
Map of power stations in South Africa
How can you save electricity?
Low monthly expenses is something we all want, right?
Of course it is, who doesn’t!
Sadly though, eco-friendly behavior is usually associated with high costs.
But what if you could keep costs low and protect your environment at the same time? (Yes you read correctly, it’s your environment). – Too good to be true, right?
Wrong! In fact, there are many ways YOU can help our planet by reducing your very own carbon footprint.
I have listed some life hacks that will help you along this path.
Which one of your appliances use the most electricity?
In case you’re not quite sure what a kWh means, don’t stress. Check out this short video below.
Cost of getting off the Eskom energy grid?
Niche Market wrote an extremely informative article over here. We recommend you to read it if you are serious about getting off the Eskom energy grid. Costs would look like this:
|Solis Grid-Tie PV System (1-phase)||Panel Array||Monthly savings (R1,85/kWh)||System Cash price||Monthly loan @ 19%, 60 months|
|3kW Solis System||3kW||R832 (450kWh)||R 53 910.00||R1498|
|4kW Solis System||4kW||R1220 (660kWh)||R 63 100.00||R1736|
|5kW Solis System||5kW||R1465 (792kWh)||R 82 500.00||R2240|
A solar power system is certainly a pricey investment on your part. The technology is still in its formative stages and will continue to get better/cheaper as time progresses.
Perhaps, you’d like to start slow and add solar power incrementally to your home. Basic panels and installation can start anywhere from R2000 to R50 000.
Unfortunately, not all of us have the space nor the money to install solar panels throughout our household. However, as you’ve seen in this article, there are many ways you can save on your electricity bills and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time, all costing a total of $0!
Kyle was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. In his spare time he kitesurfs with whales, gets attacked by jellyfish, SUP’s with great white sharks and rescues seals. He is not a best selling author like every other Tom, Dick and Harry out there but loves to write nevertheless. Especially about climate science and animals.