Winter is coming and stage 8 load shedding with it - Here's what that means for you

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Eskom struggles to keep the lights. Photo: Archive
Eskom struggles to keep the lights. Photo: Archive


Stage 8 load shedding might be on the cards for this coming winter, if all other Eskom interventions fail to minimise unplanned losses.  

This is according to Eskom's interim group CEO, Calib Cassim, who was speaking at the state of the system media briefing on Thursday, stating that this year's winter period would be difficult because of the 3000MW reduced generation capacity compared to last year's winter season. This is as a result of three units at Kusile and one Koeberg unit breaking down. 

"We are really focused on keeping our unplanned loss factor at less than 15000MW, however, we know that it’s been a struggle to keep it at this level, and in maintaining that level of 15000MW. That corresponds to much lower levels of load shedding during morning, day and evening peaks," said Cassim.  

READ: Winter brings gloomy days amid load shedding, but smart meters might help

He conceded that if these planned interventions for the winter did not achieve the desired outcome and Unplanned Capability Loss Factor (UCLF) - the ratio between the unavailable energy of the units that are out on unplanned outages over a period compared to the total net installed capacity of all units over the same period - which reached 18000, the likelihood of stage 8 load shedding during peaks were extremely high.  

"I must take this opportunity to reiterate that in terms of the national blackout, we are confident that it will not occur because of the interventions and control mechanisms that we have in place through a competent system operated team, most importantly, load shedding is important to keep control of the transmission grid."  

Meanwhile, Eskom’s chief executive for transmission Segomoco Scheppers said the power utility was considering three scenarios in terms of this year's winter outlook. 

Scheppers said: 

What this indicates is that depending on where we land on a particular day, we may have up to stage 8 of load shedding if our interventions to reduce demand and improve reliability are not effective. This is a risk-based kind of assessment, so the best outcome is that we have 15000 MW, which causes load shedding that ranges between stage 3 and stage 5, between now and the end of August.

He added that another scenario was that if we had 18000MW of breakdowns, this would necessitate stage 7 or stage 8 load shedding, especially in July and August when demand for electricity is higher.  

Stage 8 load shedding means 12 hours a day without electricity.  

READ: Sputla: We’re on same page on ending load shedding

"We are doing this to maintain the stability of the power system, to ensure that supply and demand remain in balance. It is a very painful thing to do but it is necessary to avoid something worse, which is blackout," said Scheppers. 

The ailing power utility stressed that the 18 000MW scenario that could culminate in stage 8 was an ultimate worst case scenario that Eskom was working tirelessly to avert at all cost.

Eskom generation group executive Bheki Nxumalo said that the power generating system continued to show poor performance, with frequent plant breakdowns plunging the country to varying and higher stages of load shedding.

"These shortages will persist throughout the winter months necessitating continued implementation of load shedding," Nxumalo said.

This is what South Africans can expect during each load shedding stage:

Stage 1

Up to 1 000 MW of the national load is shed during the lowest stage.

It involved outages of three outages of two hours at a time, spread out over a four day period.

Stage 2

Stage 2 requires the shedding of 2 000 MW.

It involves six outages over four days for two hours at a time, or six times over eight days for four hours at a time

Stage 3

The next stage requires up to 3 000 MW to be shed, and increases the frequency of stage 2 by 50%.

It involved nine outages over four days for two hours at a time, or nine outages over eight days period for four hours at a time.

Stage 4

4 000 MW of the national load is shed during this phase. Outages occur 12 times over four days for two hours at a time, or 12 times over eight days for four hours at a time.

Stage 6

At stage 6, 6000 MW is shed from the grid, with up two four hour cuts per day implemented over a four day period  

Stage 7

Stage 7 has similar four hour power cuts as 6, with the only exception being that an additional 1000 MW is shed.

Stage 8

Finally, stage 8 is set to leave South Africans without power for at least twelve hours per day, with 8000 MW to be shed, and up to six 2 hour cuts per day, or 3 four hour cuts, depending on the schedule in a particular area,

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