Eskom has plunged South Africa into darkness, in a more dramatic fashion than usual on Monday. The energy firm “lost functionality” in six of their generating units, escalating the load shedding schedule from Stage 2 up to Stage 4. Stage 3 didn’t even get a look-in, such is the severity of the situation.
Stage 4 load shedding – what does it mean?
Stage 4 allows for up to 4000 MW of the national load to be shed. It is double the frequency of Stage 2, which means you will be scheduled for load shedding 12 times over a four day period for two hours at a time, or 12 times over an eight-day period for four hours at a time.
Stage 4 is as good as unprecedented ground for South Africa, who only had a brush with it back in 2015. Eskom has already admitted that this electricity nightmare could stretch into April, as the crippled utility giants slump from one disaster to the next.
Unfortunately, their failure also heaps misery on the rest of South Africa. We are certainly not using the term “disaster” lightly, either. We are taking it from the experts. Ted Blom – a senior energy and mining and commodities strategist – told us that the situation is now “very serious”:
“With Stage 4, they’ve effectively lost a power station. This is a very serious situation, and 20% of the country is currently in darkness. I would say this is absolutely disastrous. The technical operation problems run deep – old stations are not receiving maintenance, whereas new stations have not yet been commissioned.”
“Their application to implement tariff hikes won’t help them. My gut feeling is that NERSA will not give Eskom anything. Their case is defective and 15% wouldn’t be enough to save them, either.”
Matshela Koko sticks the boot in
Meanwhile, the latest omnishambles has seen a few former executives emerge from the shadows. Matshela Koko – you’ll remember him for being implemented in several scandals at the power firm – has weighed in with his opinion on the matter.
The former Eskom interim GCEO believes that we are now officially “in a crisis“. He estimates that 40% of the electricity supply is unavailable, doubling the prediction made by Blom:
“We’ve jumped Stage 3 and this is a crisis. Stage 4 load shedding means the electricity system is short 4000MW to keep the grid stable – which is about the full size of Kendal Power Station. This is the very first time in the history of Eskom.”
Stage 4 also means that Eskom is failing to meet a peak demand of 27 000MW when it has the installed capacity of 45 000MW. This means around 40% of generating capacity is not available… This is gross incompetence at the very top.”
Stage 4 load shedding and beyond: Is there more to come?
But could we see even more drastic measures during these forecast blackouts? Don’t be shocked if things intensify further. Eskom Spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe is yet to rule out whether a Stage 5 schedule of load shedding could soon be rolled out. Last November, the utility confirmed that plans for “Stage 8” were being drafted.
In what would literally be our darkest days, Stage 8 would see consumers go an average of 12 hours a day without power. This has been broken down into two approaches. Either 48 hours of electricity would be shut-off over a four-day period, or alternatively, it could be doubled to 96 hours over eight days. It all depends on what Eskom have left in reserve.
Disaster may loom, but this particular scenario is miles away. Municipalities still have to approve the idea, and there’s no guarantee that everyone will be onside with the proposals. For now, it’s another game of “wait and see” for the citizens of South Africa.
- If you want to check the load shedding schedule in your area, follow this link.