South Africa dips into stage 7 load shedding

 ·23 Feb 2023

Power utlity Eskom has confirmed that it briefly entered stage 7 load shedding on Wednesday (22 February), following a similar move on Tuesday – but says this does not reflect the broader schedule.

According to daily information updates from Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha, the power utility shed over 7,000MW of power on Wednesday evening.

Speaking to MyBroadband, he confirmed that this was indeed stage 7 load shedding, but it was not an overview of load shedding for entire day, and thus was not reflected in the load shedding schedule.

He said that the load-shedding stage Eskom announces upfront is an estimate of the amount of generating capacity in deficit for the time covered. However, the system is managed continuously in real time.

Mantshantsha said that, at times, the demand could exceed the previously announced load-shedding estimate. This means that load shedding could move into stage 7 or even dip below stage 6 for a brief time.

“As you will see in the figures, it is accurate to say at that particular time last night, load-shedding was stage 7,” he said. On a broader view, however, Eskom is load-shedding at stage 6, as previously announced.

Whether stage 7 is reflected in the daily schedule or not, the cutting of over 7,000MW for the grid marks a bleak new low for the power utility.

According to the updates, 7,045MW were cut on Tuesday and 7,092MW on Wednesday.

South Africa’s load shedding stages are broadly defined by the system operator as representing 1,000MW of power. By the group’s own definitions, stage 7 load shedding would be up to 7,000MW shed.

With the load shedding hitting over 7,000MW, this would technically imply stage 8 load shedding. Economists have argued that when taking load curtailment and load reduction into account, even higher levels of load shedding are in effect in reality.

Energy experts and analysts have been warning for months that a move to scheduled stage 8 load shedding is likely, and the country could see blackouts escalate to this level by the winter months in the middle of the year.

While Eskom’s load shedding schedules currently go up to stage 8, some experts have noted that they’re entirely arbitrary and the amount of load shedding that could take place could exceed these levels.

Eskom confirmed this week that the load shedding schedules and regulations are currently being reviewed. Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said he does not believe the country will move past stage 8.

Read: Warning over a different kind of blackout at Eskom: expert

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