Get ready for 16 stages of load shedding

 ·11 May 2023

Power utility Eskom says that the new regulations for load shedding are proposing room for 16 stages of load shedding, MyBroadband reports.

This aligns with the National Rationalised Specifications (NRS) Association’s proposals put forward in March 2023.

The association confirmed last week (5 May) that it is finalising the regulations – NRS 048-9, Edition 3 – with energy regulator Nersa.

The NRS is a voluntary forum of organisations that was formed to collaborate and develop voluntary industry specifications to standardise equipment specifications across the South African Electricity Supply Industry.

The group established the NRS 048-9 regulations to assist the national System Operator and power utilities in managing power supply through load shedding and created the stages of rolling blackouts that South Africans are now all too familiar with.

When the first edition of the NRS048-9 code was established in 2010, load shedding stages were capped at Stage 4 – representing 25% of the base load – requiring utilities to “find” electricity load under emergency conditions.

According to the NRS, ‘finding’ electricity with 75% of the load not being used was reasonably straightforward. However, attempting to do so beyond Stage 4 was not easy.

The need for Stage 6 load shedding in 2019 prompted the NRS 048-9 Work Group to consider extending the load shedding stages to manage load shedding to Stage 8 (Edition 2).

In Stage 8 half the electricity load is shed, and the other half is waiting to be shed, it said. Under these conditions, it is generally much harder to “find” electricity load, it said.

Given the deterioration of Eskom’s grid and energy availability, it has now become prudent to plan even further ahead.

The group said the final NRS 048-9 Edition 3 will now provide a methodology for utilities to reduce the whole load base in a structured way.

Ostensibly, this would provide for 16 stages of load shedding, although this could be different when the final regulations are published.

Speaking to MyBroadband, however, Eskom has confirmed that 16 stages of load shedding are being proposed in the latest edition.

Eskom proposes Stage 16 load-shedding schedules

Speaking to ENCA this week, NRS chair, Vally Padaychee said that the tone on the revisions has also changed from having load shedding stages beyond Stage 8 as a precaution, to it becoming a more prudent measure, given the state of the grid.

We do anticipate a move beyond stage 8, given the status of the current grid. We cannot guarantee that we won’t go beyond stage 6, let alone stage 8,” he said. This was in the context of the coming winter period and the declining state of generation.

“It’s being practical and pragmatic; we anticipate, given the winter period coming now and the status of generation and the grid, that we cannot guarantee that we will not go beyond stage 8, so edition 3 will further protect the national grid at a very high level,” he said.

The NRS regulations are an independent document used by power utilities.

“We do not take over the role of the System Operator. Through the standards, we supplement and complement what the operator does, so we assist them in protecting the grid,” he said.

Padaychee reiterated that Edition 1 of the regulations covered up to Stage 4 load shedding because the NRS did not anticipate going beyond Stage 4. In the latter years, however, when the country moved to Stage 5 and Stage 6, it had to make revisions up to Stage 8.

Under the current edition (Edition 2), if the system moves beyond Stage 8, the System Operator moves into emergency contingencies, which are open to human errors as they are not structured, he said.

With a new edition, these emergency contingencies will be eliminated as there will be a structured plan.

Read: South Africa just hit a bleak load shedding milestone

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