How the small Free State town of Clarens kissed load-shedding goodbye

In Clarens, a small Free State town heavily dependent on tourism, residents and businesses have successfully avoided rotational power cuts for seven months. Gert Kruger, a chartered accountant, and owner of Augos consulting company pioneered the initiative. Augos facilitated Clarens’ enrollment in Eskom’s load curtailment program, allowing businesses to reduce electricity demand during load-shedding stages and sidestep power cuts. The town achieved exemption after fulfilling Eskom’s requirements, showcasing a collaborative effort to monitor and curtail electricity usage. Similar initiatives are expanding nationally to empower households with load-limiting programs, offering an innovative approach to managing power during load-shedding.

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By Staff Writer

By collectively reducing their electricity demand during load-shedding, residents and businesses of Clarens have been completely exempt from the rotational power cuts for seven months.

Sunday newspaper Rapport has detailed how the small Free State town, well known among art lovers, came together to legally sidestep load-shedding.

With its heavy reliance on tourism, Clarens was particularly hard hit by the power cuts.

Most were too small to afford backup power like solar or generators, which meant they were forced to close their doors when load-shedding was implemented.

The solution was the brainchild of Gert Kruger, a chartered accountant and owner of consulting company Augos.

The consultancy has helped numerous businesses in Cape Town avoid rotational power cuts by getting them enrolled in Eskom’s load curtailment programme.

Businesses in this programme can avoid their power being cut off by reducing their demand by a certain percentage, depending on the load-shedding stage.

The demand that needs to be curtailed under each load-shedding stage is shown in the table below.

Load-shedding vs load curtailment
StageReduction through load curtailment
110% reduction in normal demand profile
210% reduction in normal demand profile
315% reduction in normal demand profile
420% reduction in normal demand profile
530% reduction in normal demand profile
630% reduction in normal demand profile
740% reduction in normal demand profile
840% reduction in normal demand profile

Augos also helped craft an agreement with the City of Cape Town to group several small businesses whose singular load profiles were not enough to qualify them for the programme.

This concept was carried over to Kruger’s home town.

The first requirement from Eskom was a clear mandate in the form of 1,000 signatures from residents with Eskom accounts.

These were collected following several meetings and detailed explanations in Clarens and neighbouring Kgubetswana.

The town then needed to monitor its electricity usage consistently, and Eskom agreed to install a meter on the network to measure its combined consumption.

Tourists eating at restaurants in Clarens. Editorial credit: Graham Montanari / Shutterstock.com

Following three trial runs, Clarens was exempted from load-shedding from 1 September 2023 as part of the load curtailment programme.

The town has worked together to ensure that they curtail load as required.

Residents receive messages to reduce their load on a Facebook page and WhatsApp groups.

The town’s taxpayers’ association will even drive through the streets with a megaphone calling on residents and businesses to reduce their demand.

Failing to do so three times would result in being kicked off the programme.

Clarens is also a popular stop for those visiting the picturesque Golden Gate National Park.

Several households in South Africa can also avoid load-shedding by reducing their load below a certain threshold as part of Eskom’s load-limiting programme.

Eskom first piloted the programme in several suburbs in Johannesburg, including Fourways and Riverside, in June 2023.

It recently said it aimed to expand the programme nationally by February 2024.

The next targeted suburbs in Johannesburg include Buccleuch, Kelvin, Paulshof, Marlboro, Sunninghill, and Waterfall.

For this programme, Eskom requires that individual households have smart meters that allow the utility to control their power supply remotely.

This differs from the load curtailment in Clarens, as Eskom tracks individual rather than collective usage.

Those who participate in the project can pull up to 10 Amps during stage 1 to stage 4 load-shedding.

This enables them to keep essential appliances like lights, TVs, Wi-Fi routers, fridges, and security systems powered as long as they keep their load below 10 Amps.

South Africa has a 240V electrical grid,  which means that load-limited households can use up to 2.4kW during stage 1 to stage 4 load-shedding, enough to support even more power-hungry appliances like kettles, microwaves, or air fryers, with measured usage.

Outside load-shedding, typical home connections can draw up to 60 or 80 Amps (16.4kW or 19.2kW, respectively).

Eskom sends SMSes to load-limited customers to reduce demand an hour before their load-shedding slot begins.

During their load-shedding slot, the power utility warns customers up to four times to reduce their demand.

If the load has not been reduced after four warnings, the meter will automatically switch off the electricity supply for 30 minutes before the supply is restored.

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This article was first published by My Broadband and is republished with permission

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