Eskom’s system updates set to allow higher levels of power cuts

Eskom has started updating the grid system’s operation code to make allowances for higher levels of power cuts, after ramping up load shedding to Stage 6 as the energy crisis worsened.

This comes after the struggling power utility warned of the possibility of further changes on the stages of load shedding at short notice given the high number of breakdowns at its power stations.

However, Eskom yesterday downplayed fears that it could ramp up load shedding to an unprecedented Stage 8 at least not for now, as some generating units were expected to come back online.

Eskom’s general manager in its systems operator’s office, Isabel Fick, yesterday said they had begun putting contingency measures in place to communicate and manage higher stages of power cuts.

“We are currently in the process of reviewing the document that governs load shedding, the NRS 048-9. This is a Nersa (National Energy Regulator of South Africa) document that is also being put to the industry and it is thus still going through governance processes,” Fick said.

Yes, we are still looking at different stages of load shedding. In terms of contingency plans. We do have contingency plans, and should we reach Stage 8 we will then give the necessary levels through to the other control centres. But we do not anticipate that at this stage,” she said.

The NRS 048-9 is a government standard process that organises the manner in which load shedding is implemented during periods of supply capacity problems, and the handling of critical loads.

The code addresses not only the power system requirements, but also how this is done and communicated so as to have the least negative impact on critical infrastructure.

Stage 6 load shedding was implemented due to a number of breakdowns of a generating unit each at Eskom’s Arnot, Hendrina, Lethabo and Majuba power stations, as well as two units at Camden power station.

Outgoing Eskom CEO André de Ruyter yesterday said Stage 6 load shedding would be implemented until Wednesday evening which will be followed by Stage 4 on Thursday morning, with a further drop to Stage 3 by the weekend.

De Ruyter said they were working on bringing several units back to service, including unit 4, 5 and 2 at Lethabo power station, a unit at Camden with about 3 000MW, followed by a further 2 000MW of capacity each for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Eskom had extremely high “full” losses of 12 318MW, partial load losses of 5 993MW and outside capacity load losses relating mainly to the supply of coal at Lethabo power station of 2 100MW.

However, De Ruyter said the probability of the power utility implementing load shedding beyond Stage 8 was “very low”.

“We do have contingency plans in place should there be further loss in generation capacity. At this point, we do not anticipate that there is a risk of going beyond Stage 8,” De Ruyter said.

“That is part of our contingency planning in place. I don’t particularly want to elaborate too much on that, but I can give the country the assurance that we are doing everything in our power to ensure that we do not end up in a situation where we go beyond that,” he said.

Independent energy expert Lungile Mashele said though Eskom had given the public a load shedding schedule that ends at Stage 8, it did not mean they could not go to further stages.

Mashele, however, said this did not indicate that the country was nearing a complete grid blackout.

She said the system operator have a few tools they can implement to balance the system, but load shedding was the most effective for longer periods.

“Stage 8 means the average South African will not have electricity for 50% of the time, that is 12 hours of the day,” Mashele said.

“Numerous companies and municipalities have already started working on Stage 8 contingency plans such as acquiring more diesel, investing in solar, back-up for data rooms, giving staff battery packs or UPS devices.

“The impact of a protracted Stage 8 will be tremendous on industry, commerce, agriculture and mining. Factories will only be able to work when there’s electricity or move to 24-hour shifts, expect more culling of livestock, downtime of networks including ATMs, surgery backlogs etc,” she said.


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