Eskom stage 8 load-shedding dispute

The intensity of load-shedding that some South Africans are experiencing is consistent with the requirements set out for Stage 8 in the National Rationalized Specifications (NRS) 048-9 regulations for load-shedding.

This is according to energy expert Chris Yelland, who, during an interview with Newzroom Afrika, said he was getting upwards of 12 hours of power cuts daily.

“People on the ground… me included here in Craighall, Johannesburg, I am experiencing 12 and a half hours of load-shedding today. That is more than half the day,” said Yelland.

“If you look at the NRS048 specification, that is consistent with Stage 8 load-shedding and not Stage 6 load-shedding.”

“So there’s a lot of cynicism and belief that we’re not being told the bigger picture,” he added.

Responding to claims that Eskom had implemented Stage 8 load-shedding, electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said the claims are false.

“We were never at Stage 8. One of the things I committed to was that we are going to be transparent,” Ramokgopa said during a media briefing on Sunday, 26 November 2023.

“The experiences of people in the various localities, that I cannot deny, but remember that responsibility in the incidence of Johannesburg, Eskom has handed it over to City Power.”

Eskom has been accused of implementing higher stages of load-shedding than announced to the public several times before.

In late 2022, a weekly review from the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) showed that load-shedding had reached Stage 7 in early December, despite Eskom’s only officially implementing Stage 6 load-shedding at the time.

The BER argued that Eskom’s power cuts reached Stage 7 if one accounts for the load curtailment against specific business users.

Load curtailment is a mechanism through which Eskom asks some of its most demanding power users to reduce electricity consumption in periods of low electricity availability.

The power utility was accused of doing the same in February 2023, and curiously, Eskom confirmed the implementation of Stage 7 load-shedding before denying it a few days later.

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, South Africa’s Minister of Electricity

On 23 February 2023, then-Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the power utility had implemented Stage 7 load-shedding during peak demand periods on two evenings.

“As you will see in the figures, it is accurate to say at that particular time last night, load-shedding was Stage 7,” he said.

However, just four days later, Thomas Conradie, then-head of generation at Eskom, denied the claim that the power utility had implemented Stage 7 load-shedding.

Conradie said in a press briefing that “we have not introduced Stage 7, Stage 8, or any higher stages of load-shedding”.

“When we run out on the supply side, we have to manage demand,” he said, indicating that it isn’t as straightforward as some may think.

“We have only introduced up to stage 6 load-shedding thus far. Where we have seen higher than 6,000MW load-shedding, we have also introduced stage 4 load-curtailment.”

In May 2023, several energy experts, including CSIR senior researcher Monique le Roux, said that, despite Eskom’s claims to the contrary, it had exceeded Stage 6 load-shedding at some stage during the first five months of 2023.

Le Roux explained that although Eskom refused to admit it, the country was in Stage 7 load-shedding, as up to 7,000MW of electricity is unavailable from the grid.

“Eskom seems to have a drive to avoid as much as possible to avoid announcing Stage 7 load-shedding,” said Le Roux.

“Technically, we can say that we have been in stage 7 load-shedding because 7,000MW has been unavailable and unsupplied.”

However, in August, National Rationalised Specifications (NRS) Association of South Africa chairman Vally Padayachee provided another explanation for the discrepancies — Eskom never followed its own rules for describing load-shedding stages.

Padayachee explained that the utility never used its widely distributed guidelines or definition of 1,000MW-per-stage for load-shedding and typically cut between 800MW and 1,200MW per stage.

This is because the true definitions of load-shedding stages are expressed as a percentage of demand cut, not a fixed amount.

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Eskom stage 8 load-shedding dispute