Cold front could trigger load shedding, as Eskom warns SA to use less power

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Heavy rain batters Cape Town.
Heavy rain batters Cape Town.
Ziyaad Douglas/Gallo Images

Power utility Eskom has warned South Africans to use electricity sparingly, as a cold front and the resulting severe weather conditions impacted parts of South Africa this week.

"The South African Weather Service warned yesterday that wet, windy and cold conditions are expected in some parts of the country this week as a result of a cold front," Eskom said in a statement on Monday morning. 

It said it hadn’t implemented load shedding since 13 June because of an improvement in the generation fleet and that "the system is currently performing relatively well".

"However, the cold front will increase the demand for electricity thereby putting pressure on the power system. Therefore, Eskom urges the people of South Africa to help reduce electricity usage in order to ease the pressure on the system."

An analysis by Netwerk24 shows that Eskom's safety margin - how much more power it is generating than the maximum demand – fell to 3.8% recently, and dropped to only 2.4% a week ago.

The global standard for generation safety margin is 15%.With a margin of only 2.4%, this means Eskom is only generating 737 MW more than the power demand – and if only one sizeable generating unit breaks down at a power station, it would have to institute load shedding.

The Weather Service warned that the cold front was expected to make landfall in the Western Cape on Monday, leading to disruptive rainfall, gale-force winds and approximately six-metre-high waves. 

The Weather Service also warned of very cold conditions over the Northern Cape as well as the interior of the Western and Eastern Cape provinces. "Significant and widespread frost is expected over the western and central interior from Wednesday through to Friday."

According to Western Cape Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell, there is a strong possibility of snowfall, which could be as deep as 15cm over the highest mountain ranges of the province.

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