Why load-shedding frequency varies across South African cities

In South Africa, the frequency and duration of load-shedding vary widely among municipalities. Some, like Durban’s eThekwini, average just over four hours a day under stage 6 load-shedding, while Gauteng areas endure up to twelve hours daily. Eskom’s NRS048-9 guidelines provide parameters for load-shedding, but each metro has the discretion to implement it. eThekwini stands out for its innovative approach, utilising an automated system to maintain shorter, more predictable load-shedding periods. This diversity in approaches among municipalities highlights the complexity of managing power cuts in South Africa.

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Why some cities in South Africa get longer load-shedding

By Myles Illidge

Some cities in South Africa get load-shed less frequently than others, with municipalities like Durban’s eThekwini averaging just over four hours a day under stage 6 load-shedding, while areas in Gauteng get up to twelve hours a day.

Eskom’s requirements for municipalities are stipulated in the NRS048-9 guidelines, and the state-owned power utility leaves the implementation of load-shedding up to each metro.

Essentially, municipalities are given guidance on how much power must be shed during each stage of load-shedding. Control over how they implement rotational power cuts remains in their hands.

They are instructed to shed a specified percentage of their total load for each stage of load-shedding.

“Each supplier is responsible and accountable for their own schedules and the execution thereof in line with NRS048-9,” said Eskom.

“Eskom cannot comment on any exceptions beyond NRS048-9 explicit requirements.”

The NRS048-9 stipulates the following percentages for stages 1 to 4:

  • Stage 1 â€” 5% reduction in load.
  • Stage 2 â€” 10% reduction in load.
  • Stage 3 â€” 15% reduction in load.
  • Stage 4 â€” 20% reduction in load.

MyBroadband asked eThekwini municipality to comment on its load-shedding schedules after noticing that it tends to implement less than other municipalities across South Africa.

“Load-shedding schedules are designed by each distribution utility in line with the requirements of NRS048-9 and the System Operator,” said Gugu Sisilana, eThekwini municipality spokesperson.

“EThekwini Municipality’s current schedule adheres to both these requirements.”

“Every utility has a different strategy in terms of the load-shedding rotation and the execution, depending on the type of load under their control and the number of load curtailment customers,” she added.

Sisilana added that there is currently a third revision of the NRS048-9 guidelines open to public comment, which she said tries to address the issue of standardisation across municipalities.

The eThekwini municipality recently received the award for the Top Performing Project at the annual Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities on 3 October 2023.

The association attributed eThekwini’s receiving of the award to the work done by the city’s High Voltage Network Control Division’s implementation of an automated load-shedding system.

“Whilst most utilities implement 4-hour blocks at higher stages, eThekwini can maintain 2-hour blocks up to stage 8 due to the deployment of the automated load-shedding system,” said Sisilana.

“The additional 30 minutes that other utilities add to the published schedules for each timeslot is eliminated by eThekwini using this software, which therefore reduces eThekwini’s total number of hours load shed.”

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda agreed, saying the automation system and extent of its electricity network allow it to implement shorter bouts of load-shedding.

“The automation has allowed us to switch the system on and off in real-time, which makes the period of load-shedding predictable,” he added.

Kaunda said if Eskom requires eThekwini to shed five megawatts of power from the grid, it can do so while ensuring residents and businesses are not adversely affected by longer load-shedding sessions.

As an example of the differing approaches adopted by municipalities, we compared the load-shedding schedules across all eight of South Africa’s metropolitan municipalities.

We calculated the load-shedding hours implemented by each by averaging the hours shed in several areas of each municipality.

In general, the City of Johannesburg’s and City of Tshwane’s residents experience the most hours of load-shedding of these municipalities.

However, under stage 1 load-shedding, Polokwane Municipality averages two hours of load-shedding per day. At the same time, Johannesburg and Tshwane residents experience one hour and 45 minutes of daily load-shedding on average.

At stage 6 load-shedding, eThekwini customers experience an average of only 4.5 hours per day, while the two Gauteng municipalities implement 10.5 hours daily.

Under stages 5 and 6 load-shedding, Polokwane Municipality implements an average of six hours daily.

Curiously, despite the City of Tshwane and the City of Johannesburg’s average load-shedding hours aligning across all other stages, Tshwane municipality’s residents experience one-and-a-half hours of more load-shedding on average, with stage 3 in effect.

The analysis of South African metropolitan municipality load-shedding schedules up to stage 6 is summarised in the table below.

MunicipalityStage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6
eThekwini (Durban)Less than 1 hour1 hour 25 minutes2 hours 20 minutes3 hours3 hours 25 minutes4 hours 30 minutes
Polokwane2 hours2 hours3 hours3 hours6 hours6 hours
City of Joburg1 hour 45 minutes3 hours 30 minutes4 hours7 hours 30 minutes9 hours 20 minutes10 hours 30 minutes
City of Tshwane (Pretoria)1 hour 45 minutes3 hours 30 minutes5 hours 30 minutes7 hours 30 minutes9 hours 20 minutes10 hours 30 minutes
City of Cape Town1 hour 45 minutes3 hours 30 minutes5 hours 30 minutes7 hours 30 minutes8 hours 35 minutes10 hours
Buffalo City (East London)1 hour 20 minutes2 hours 30 minutes3 hours 50 minutes5 hours 35 minutes6 hours7 hours 20 minutes
Manguang Municipality (Bloemfontein)2 hours3 hours 55 minutes5 hours 30 minutes7 hours 30 minutes8 hours 55 minutes10 hours 40 minutes
Nelson Mandela Bay (Gqeberha)1 hour 35 minutes3 hours 35 minutes5 hours6 hours 15 minutes6 hours 15 minutes6 hours 15 minutes
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This article was first published by MyBroadBand and is republished with permission.

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