SA towns dodge load-shedding with Eskom’s innovative load curtailment program

Discover how South African towns like Clarens are dodging power outages through Eskom’s innovative load curtailment program. Spearheaded by local Gert Kruger, this initiative empowers residential areas to trim electricity usage during scheduled outages, bypassing up to stage 4 load-shedding. While typically for businesses, this solution extends to smaller locales, promising a sustainable energy future. Uncover the mechanics, benefits, and success stories behind this transformative approach to energy management.

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By Hanno Labuschagne

Residential estates, complexes, and small towns in South Africa can join Eskom’s load curtailment programme and avoid load-shedding up to stage 4, if they can keep their electricity consumption during the scheduled outages in check.

The Free State town of Clarens is one of Eskom’s customers who has benefitted from this programme, enabling it to avoid rotational power outages altogether since September 2023.

The solution was the brainchild of Clarens local Gert Kruger, a chartered accountant and owner of Augos, a consultancy that had experience helping numerous Cape Town businesses avoid load-shedding by enrolling in the curtailment programme.

Load curtailment is commonly believed to only be available to businesses, specifically those with higher power demands like industrial consumers — including mines and smelters.

Instead of having their power entirely cut off, these customers are only required to reduce their total demand by a certain percentage.

Eskom has told MyBroadband that residential areas like small towns, estates, and even entire municipalities can apply to be part of the programme.

“Other small towns that are able to meet the operational and technical requirements are welcome to apply,” Eskom said.

In these cases, the town would either have to be an Eskom Direct customer, or the municipality would need to apply to join the programme.

The table below shows how load curtailment differs from load-shedding under each announced stage.

Demand reductions under NRS 048-9 Electricity Supply Edition 3
StageReduction through load-sheddingReduction through load curtailment
15% of demand10% reduction in normal demand profile
210% of demand10% reduction in normal demand profile
315% of demand15% reduction in normal demand profile
420% of demand20% reduction in normal demand profile
525% of demand30% reduction in normal demand profile
630% of demand30% reduction in normal demand profile
735% of demand40% reduction in normal demand profile
840% of demand40% reduction in normal demand profile
945% of demand50% reduction in normal demand profile
1050% of demand50% reduction in normal demand profile
1155% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator
1260% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator
1365% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator
1470% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator
1575% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator
1680% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator

Eskom said that estates and complexes would also be easily manageable for load curtailment because they have a smaller and more concentrated cohort of residents than other areas.

“For the estates/complexes metered at a bulk point, Eskom is currently exploring a bulk meter solution with limiting function, which would require the estates to coordinate and manage the demand and communication to individual households in the estate on the demand reduction achieved,” the utility said.

In this instance, an estate or complex would most likely need to be supplied directly by Eskom, eliminating many of those in the major metros.

However, Eskom said there was no limit on the maximum number of households that an estate, complex, or town might have to qualify for curtailment.

Of primary importance is that the reduction could be verified with measurements.

“It is ideal to use smart meters as this is a technical solution that Eskom is implementing at present,” the power utility said.

In addition, the overall reduction in the load must be measured with a substation statistical meter.

Eskom said that Clarens’ approach, which only requires the substation statistical meter due to its small population, was working well so far.

“The current process is effective and is a win-win benefit. In fact, data has indicated that Clarens is performing very well against the set target as a percentage of the required load reduction,” the utility said.

A shop in Clarens, Free State. The town’s businesses rely heavily on tourism for income. Editorial credit: Grobler du Preez / Shutterstock.com

Eskom said it would consider applications to join the programme individually and on merit, in accordance with the best practices outlined in NRS048-9.

“In order to assist these customers and ensure compliance, the consumer is encouraged to engage with independent aggregators or energy services companies,” Eskom said.

“A number of large customers directly supplied has adhered to the rules and is exempted from load-shedding until stage 4.”

Eskom also confirmed that Frankfort’s electricity utility — Rural Free State — had shown interest in joining the programme.

The private electricity company has been at loggerheads with Eskom for several months over its implementation of load-shedding “voiding”, where it exempted customers from load-shedding during certain hours when its solar farm was producing sufficient electricity to meet demand.

Eskom said this could not be allowed because the solar farm’s contribution did not form part of the town’s regular load profile.

Rural Free State has since come up with a way to reduce load-shedding for some of its customers by making use of battery storage and generators.

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This article was first published by MyBroadband and is republished with permission

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