Eskom has urged South Africans to delay charging their inverter systems in an attempt to reduce demand on the grid – or else risk adding another stage of load shedding during peak times.
During its latest state of the system presentation, the power utility called on South Africans to protect the country’s energy supply during the upcoming winter, which is expected to see load shedding above stage 6.
This is despite already cash-strapped South Africans forking out thousands of rands for ‘off-shelf solutions’ such as inverters – the majority of which range between R6,000 and R20,000.
The same presentation noted that Eskom has schedules available up to stage 8. “If unplanned outages average 18,000MW for the winter period, load shedding will be required every day and will be implemented up to stage 8,” said Eskom.
Delaying the charging of inverters forms part of a slew of demand-side energy reduction actions proposed by the utility, alongside switching off what is not needed, stopping “izinyoka” (cable thieves) and paying electricity fees.
Through demand-side reductions, Eskom said it can recover 4,500MW.
However, whenever load shedding ends, there is a rush from households to charge their batteries and inverter systems, which, especially during peak times, causes demand to spike significantly, threatening the grid.
Eskom estimates that charging inverters during peak times (06h00 – 09h00 and in the evenings) could spike demand by as much as 1,400MW – equivalent to a whole stage of load shedding.
“If possible, set the inverters to charge batteries during the night, when the demand is at its lowest. Also, where solar panels are used, charge batteries 10h00 to 14h00, when the maximum output is achieved from the panels,” Eskom said.
Inverters have, however, been playing a critical role in lessening the blow of rolling blackouts by supplying low levels of electricity to open garage doors, run a handful of lights or keep the wifi on so people can work, among other things.
During power outages, inverters automatically switch on and provide uninterrupted electricity; however, depending on the model, more severe stages of load shedding may lead to them running dry and recharging taking longer than usual.
Eskom’s full call to action for the winter period can be seen below:
Although the government has encouraged people to become more power independent through the rooftop solar tax incentive whereby those who install solar can claim a rebate of 25% up to R15,000 – there is no rebate for alternative power supplies, including inverters or batteries.
On top of alternative power supplies, there are a number of other ways households can look to save energy and mitigate load shedding.
- Buy load shedding lights – these are lightbulbs with built-in rechargable batteries that can be used to reduce the overall load considerably;
- Reduce the amount of power used by replacing air conditioners – which consume 2.5-3kW of power per hour – with an evaporative cooler or a normal fan;
- Invest in gas stoves and cookers;
- Substitute appliances with those that use less power.