Load-shedding during South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown – What you need to know

South Africa may be facing a 21-day lockdown to combat the coronavirus, but that does not mean citizens are safe from load-shedding.

While it has been over a week since Eskom last implemented load-shedding, it is continually reminding South Africans that there is a risk of rolling blackouts due to its lack of generational capacity.

President Cyril Ramaphosa did assure South Africans that maintenance workers at Eskom would be allowed to keep working along with workers in other essential industries.

Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel elaborated on this exemption, stating that measures were in place to ensure Eskom’s power generation would be sufficient during the crisis.

“This includes working with coal mines through to coal trucks, through to arrangements at the various Eskom plants,” he said.

“Generation, transmission, distribution – all of those (workers) will be exempted from the lockdown,” Patel stated.

The minister added that the government expected a decrease in demand as large enterprises shut down operations, which may reduce the risk of load-shedding over the lockdown period.

Possibility of load-shedding

MyBroadband also asked Eskom whether it expected the possibility of load-shedding to decrease during the 21-day lockdown imposed on citizens.

The power utility noted that the risk of load-shedding remains during the period, which means that the strained national power grid still places South Africans at risk of rolling blackouts.

“Note that the possibility that load-shedding may be implemented remains as the system remains constrained and vulnerable,” Eskom said.

The company’s power alert for 25 March echoed this warning, stating that while it did not expect load-shedding to occur during the 21-day lockdown, there is a possibility that it may have to be implemented.

“Eskom does not expect to implement load-shedding during the COVID-19 national lockdown, but the possibility that load-shedding may be implemented remains.”

“As an essential and critical services supplier, some of Eskom’s personnel are exempt from the provisions of the lockdown,” Eskom said. “As such, we do not expect any impediments to the generation and supply of electricity during this period.”

“We request customers to continue to use electricity sparingly and to assist us in reducing demand.”

No change in demand over the past week

MyBroadband asked Eskom whether it has seen a drop in electricity demand due to the recent restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The power utility said it had not detected large variances in demand, but noted that the early closure of schools had resulted in a slight change.

“No abnormal changes in the national electricity demand were observed last week,” Eskom said. “The only changes were due to schools closing earlier than expected, which resulted in the lower morning peaks.”

“However, demand would then normalize after 10:00, which is typical for school holidays.”

In fact, cooler weather conditions that persisted last week contributed to slightly higher demand than normal, Eskom said.

Eskom supplied the below graph which shows daily peak demand forecast versus actual demand for the last week.

“As can be observed, the two curves are very close to each other – some days the actual demand even higher than forecast,” Eskom said.

Eskom demand graph March 2020

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Load-shedding during South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown – What you need to know