Eskom's New Stage 16 Load Shedding Schedules

Stage 12 entails a daunting 24-hour power outage, but the situation is about to worsen…

Reports reveal that there are now 16 stages of load shedding, doubling the previous eight outlined in the old code. Eskom has yet to officially announce this, but the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) reportedly greenlit the new Code of Practice.

The most significant change is the transition from 24-hour cycles to 32-hour ones. This shift dramatically alters the load shedding experience throughout South Africa. Now, every four days will encompass three 32-hour cycles (4 x 24 = 96 hours, 3 x 32 = 96 hours).

Key Takeaways

  1. Eskom’s updated load shedding schedule introduces 16 stages: Marking a doubling from the previous eight. The most notable change is the transition from 24-hour cycles to 32-hour cycles, significantly altering the load shedding landscape across South Africa.
  2. Redefinition of Stage 1: Stage 1 now corresponds to 5% of demand rather than a fixed 1,000MW. This adjustment means that the severity of Stage 1 will fluctuate depending on the day and season, resulting in more dynamic load shedding stages directly linked to daily demand.
  3. Impact on Power Availability: Even at Stage 12, the new schedule ensures some power availability within the 32-hour cycle, offering intermittent periods of electricity amidst extensive outages. However, at Stage 16, both residential and commercial customers will face a complete power cutoff.
Load Shedding Cycles

Load Shedding Cycles

CycleStart Time
Cycle 1Monday at 00:00
Cycle 2Tuesday at 08:00
Cycle 3Wednesday at 16:00
Cycle 4Friday at 00:00
Cycle 5Saturday at 08:00
Cycle 6Sunday at 16:00
Cycle 7Tuesday at 00:00

This new schedule will disrupt current systems that operate efficiently on 24-hour blocks.

The second major change is that Stage 1 no longer equals 1,000MW. Instead, it represents 5% of demand.

In summer, this is around 1,300MW (or 1,100-1,200MW on Sundays). In winter, it’s well over 1,600MW. This is a significant issue. Stage 1 on a Tuesday or Wednesday will differ greatly from Stage 1 on a Sunday. Essentially, Stage 1 at the weekend is less severe than during the week in terms of megawatts reduced from the grid.

Going forward, once this system is in place, the level of load shedding will correspond directly to the day’s energy demand. Consequently, what is currently considered Stage 1 during a day of high demand could escalate to Stage 2, whereas Stage 2 during a period of low demand might be downgraded to Stage 1. Eskom’s weekly demand forecast will become significantly more critical under this framework.

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Load Shedding Blocks

Load Shedding Blocks

Until Stage 8, the load shedding structure remains consistent with the current breakdown. However, the major change lies in its extension to 32 hours instead of the previous 24-hour duration, providing some ‘respite’ across a cycle.

Previously, Stage 2 entailed two two-hour blocks within a 24-hour period. Under the new schedule, these blocks occur over 32 hours.

Given the extended timeframe, even at Stage 12 – entailing a 24-hour power outage – there would still be eight hours of power within that 32-hour cycle. This translates to six hours without power, followed by two hours of power, repeated four times.

Overview of Load Shedding Blocks

StageBlocks (32-hour cycle)Hours off
Stage 11 x 2-hour block2
Stage 22 x 2-hour blocks4
Stage 33 x 2-hour blocks6
Stage 44 x 2-hour blocks8
Stage 51 x 4-hour block, 3 x 2-hour blocks10
Stage 62 x 4-hour blocks, 2 x 2-hour blocks12
Stage 73 x 4-hour blocks, 1 x 2-hour block14
Stage 84 x 4-hour blocks16
Stage 91 x 6-hour block, 3 x 4-hour blocks18
Stage 102 x 6-hour blocks, 2 x 4-hour blocks20
Stage 113 x 6-hour blocks, 1 x 4-hour block22
Stage 124 x 6-hour blocks24
Stage 131 x 14-hour block, 2 x 6-hour blocks26
Stage 142 x 14-hour blocks28
Stage 151 x 30-hour block30
Stage 16Power off32

The extension of planning beyond Stage 8 offers a sense of reassurance to the industry. Presently, load reduction is overseen through “manual instruction” from the System Operator, a method prone to chaos during peak periods.

At Stage 16, both residential and commercial customers will face a total power blackout, euphemistically termed as “power off.” Only “essential loads” will receive any supply during this stage.

However, the likelihood of reaching Stage 16 is minimal. It would require the entire coal fleet to cease producing any megawatts.

Consideration should also be given to our imports of 1,300MW from Cahora Bassa and the variable output from Koeberg, which ranges between 900 and 1,900MW. Additionally, open-cycle gas turbines, including those operated by independent power producers (IPPs), have the capacity to generate nearly 3,000MW. Additionally, our energy composition benefits from IPP solar farms, wind farms, and numerous other renewable energy sources.

When all else fails, pumped storage is a dependable fallback. While it uses more energy overall than it produces, it can still supply a substantial amount of power if some coal power stations remain operational.

Conclusion

Eskom’s implementation of a 16-stage load shedding schedule represents a substantial departure in the management of power outages in South Africa. The transition to 32-hour cycles and the adjustment of Stage 1 according to demand signal significant shifts that will reshape the landscape of load shedding. Although the new plan offers a degree of structure and predictability, the prolonged outages at higher stages underscore the persistent hurdles in South Africa’s power supply. These revisions are aimed at more efficiently managing demand, yet they also underscore the urgent necessity for substantial enhancements in the country’s energy infrastructure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the new stages of load shedding introduced by Eskom?

Eskom has introduced 16 stages of load shedding, doubling the previous eight stages. These stages are based on a 32-hour cycle instead of the previous 24-hour cycle.

How does the new Stage 1 differ from the old Stage 1?

The new Stage 1 represents 5% of demand instead of a fixed 1,000MW. This means the severity of Stage 1 can vary depending on the day’s demand and season, making it more dynamic.

What is the impact of the new 32-hour load shedding cycle?

The new 32-hour cycle changes the timing and frequency of power outages, ensuring some power availability within the cycle even at higher stages, such as Stage 12. This translates to intermittent power periods despite extensive outages.

What happens at Stage 16 of load shedding?

At Stage 16, residential and commercial customers will experience a complete power cutoff, with only “essential loads” receiving power. However, reaching Stage 16 is highly unlikely as it would require the entire coal fleet to produce no megawatts.

How will the new load shedding stages affect daily life in South Africa?

The new stages and cycles will disrupt current systems that operate on 24-hour blocks, requiring adjustments in daily routines and operations. The dynamic nature of load shedding stages based on demand will also mean varying levels of power availability throughout the week.

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