Since South Africans were first introduced to the concept of load-shedding in 2007, Eskom has added numerous ways to cut electricity to customers.
Neighbourhoods and companies across South African can now be hit with load-shedding, load-reduction, and load-curtailment.
The term “blackout” is regularly used to describe these controlled electricity cuts, but Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said this practice should stop.
De Ruyter explained that load-shedding is not a euphemism for blackouts.
He said a blackout, which is often referred to as a national blackout or complete blackout, occurs when there is an extended system outage that lasts for days or weeks.
Many countries and cities in other parts of the world have experienced complete blackouts.
To re-start their electricity system, these countries have been able to tap into a power system from a neighbouring city or country. The process can take up to a few hours or days.
“Unfortunately, in South Africa, we have to rely on ourselves to start the system from scratch — energising one power plant at a time and one section of the country at a time,” Eskom said.
In the event of a blackout in South Africa, it could take up to two weeks to restore full power, which would have a severe impact on our country.
Load-shedding is implemented to reduce demand and avoid such a catastrophic blackout.
Here is a summary of the terms used by Eskom to explain electricity outages.
- Blackout — A blackout occurs when there is too much electricity demand and too little supply, bringing the power system into an imbalance and causing a cascading trip-out that brings down the whole power system.
- Load Curtailment — When there are electricity constraints, Eskom asks its biggest clients to reduce their electricity usage. Some customers can reduce their power use by up to 20% to provide Eskom with breathing room.
- Load-shedding — If load curtailment does not sufficiently lower demand, Eskom implements load-shedding to cut demand further and avoid a blackout. Load-shedding is a controlled process where electricity is cut in parts of the country for specific periods during the day.
- Load Reduction — When power is switched off in areas where there are high instances of electricity theft and where illegal connections cause overloading and damage infrastructure, Eskom calls it load reduction. The targeted areas are typically low-income neighbourhoods like townships.