Why Eskom is warning people to use less electricity

Eskom does not expect it will implement load-shedding during winter, despite an increase in demand as lockdown measures are eased.

This is according to company spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshansha, who spoke to MyBroadband following a tweet the power utility published on Tuesday evening.

In the tweet, Eskom warned there was in “increasing strain on the electrical supply” and encouraged electricity users to switch off certain electrical devices.

“Please switch off any unnecessary lights, geyser, pool pump, and non-essential appliances such as dishwashers,” the tweet stated.

This comes after Eskom CEO André de Ruyter told Parliament on 6 May the risk of load-shedding in the next quarter had reduced substantially compared with their previous predictions.

“After lockdown, we will see the initial 31 days of Stage 1 load-shedding that we had anticipated for the next quarter being reduced to only three days,” De Ruyter said.

He said this was based on a load reduction of 2,000MW due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on electricity usage.

Mantshansha told MyBroadband the alert was not issued due to a lack of generation capacity or imminent load-shedding.

“It is a proactive decision by Eskom to encourage consumers to better manage demand and use electricity sparingly and to smooth out the winter demand profile,” he explained.

He noted these alerts had proved successful in reducing demand in previous years.

“This campaign to partner with the people on responsible electricity usage was used effectively about five years ago, and always had the effect of saving about 350MW.”

Rising demand

Mantshansha said despite demand picking up slightly since alert level 4 of the lockdown was implemented, Eskom does not expect load-shedding to be required any time soon.

“Eskom is comfortable it has the capacity to supply electricity without the need to implement load-shedding,” he stated.

“We expect demand to keep rising as economic activity increases with the gradual easing of the lockdown. Our plan is able to meet this rising demand without resorting to load-shedding.”

He warned the risk of load-shedding remains because of the utility’s ageing infrastructure, which was not always maintained in accordance with the protocols of the original equipment manufacturers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic itself has added another layer of risk for Eskom, as it has for every other business,” he added.

No load-shedding during winter

Mantshansha reiterated the stance of the Eskom CEO with regards to how much load-shedding would be needed in the coming months.

“While the risk of load-shedding is always there, Eskom expects to go through the winter without having to implement load-shedding. At most, our plan makes provision for three days of load-shedding.”

He echoed previous comments by the CEO regarding an increase in maintenance being performed at power stations, which Eskom claims will result in a more reliable generation fleet when compared to its state before the lockdown.

Eskom will provide more details on this maintenance work during its State of the System briefing on Thursday 21 May 2020.

Below are the three possible scenarios for load-shedding during the next quarter as put forward by De Ruyter.

Scenario 1

Load shedding Number of days expected
Stage 1 3
Stage 2 0
Stage 3 0

Scenario 2 

Load shedding Number of days expected
Stage 1 49
Stage 2 3
Stage 3 0

Scenario 3

Load shedding Number of days expected
Stage 1 21
Stage 2 49
Stage 3 3

Now read: Disturbing new evidence about Eskom air pollution

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Why Eskom is warning people to use less electricity