Eskom expands big plan to cut load shedding in residential areas

 ·7 Nov 2023

Eskom has expanded the rollout of its residential load management pilot in Gauteng.

The pilot was launched in Fourways in June this year, but has now been expanded to areas such as Beverley, Lonehill, Craigavon, Magaliessig, Dainfern Valley, Witkopen, and Douglasdale.

The pilot forms part of Eskom’s demand-side management programme, which aims to ease pressure on the national grid and decrease the level of load shedding by managing overall demand.

The programme only works with smart meters, where the power utility has a certain degree of remote control over consumption.

Participants in the pilot are subject to load limiting, where customers can use some appliances such as lights, refrigerators, televisions, and Wi-Fi routers during load shedding Stages 1 to 4, as long as the load remains below 10 Amps.

An hour before the start of load shedding, the system prompts customers to reduce their consumption from 60/80 Amps to 10 Amps by sending a message to the customer interface unit (CIU) or cell phone.

Customers are provided with four opportunities to reduce their consumption, and thereafter, if the load has not been reduced, the meter automatically switches off the electricity for 30 minutes.

According to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, the pilot has been well-received by participants. Because it has been implemented in areas where customers already have smart meters, Eskom has incurred no additional costs in launching the initiative.

“Eskom is leveraging functionalities embedded in installed meters for the benefit of both customers and Eskom. Thus, load limiting can be rolled out in all areas with smart meters at no additional cost,” he said.

Responding in a parliamentary Q&A this week to concerns that Eskom would be using the system to control customers’ electricity usage remotely, the minister said that this is not the purpose of the pilot and that no complaints to that effect have been lodged.

“On the contrary, the participants are receiving the programme very well,” he said.

Demand-side difference

While Eskom has been making small positive gains in restoring its energy generation capacity, the group still falls short of meeting demand.

The system operator has warned that without investment into new generation and effective demand-side management, load shedding will remain a prominent fixture in South Africa for the next five years at least.

In recent weeks, however, South Africans at large have come to the party and much of the relief seen in load shedding can be attributed to significant drops in demand.

One of the reasons for this drop in demand is a major boost in adopting alternative energy sources – such as rooftop solar, the installation of which has doubled in 2023.

Read: Eskom relapses

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