Winter spike leads Eskom to reintroduce load reduction measures

Eskom is resuming load reduction in select areas to prevent damage to critical infrastructure due to network overloading, not due to a lack of generating capacity. Although Eskom has successfully avoided load-shedding for 103 days, winter’s increased demand and issues like electricity theft have led to transformer overloading. Eskom urges customers to reduce consumption and report illegal activities to help manage the situation.

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By Staff Writer

Eskom has announced that it will resume load reduction in specific supply areas where network overloading is threatening critical electricity infrastructure.

It emphasised that load reduction is not load-shedding, as it still had sufficient generating capacity to meet the country’s electricity demand.

“While Eskom has suspended load-shedding for 103 consecutive days due to sufficient generation capacity, the issue of network overloading has resurfaced with the onset of winter,” the state-owned power utility said.

“This issue is prevalent in the Eskom supply areas in Limpopo, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and North West.”

Eskom said the overloaded transformers are at risk because of electricity theft and indiscriminate electricity use.

It said electricity theft activities are wide-ranging and include illegal connections, network equipment theft, vandalism, meter bypasses and tampering, unauthorised network operations and purchasing electricity from illegal vendors.

Eskom explained that its electricity infrastructure is designed to handle loads based on known demand, which is legally connected customers and actual sales for specific areas.

Exceeding these loads through electricity theft can overload the equipment, potentially causing explosions that may lead to electrical fires in the surrounding areas.

“Overloaded transformers as a result of electricity theft present a serious risk to human life, we only implement load reduction as a very last resort for the shortest periods possible after all other options have been exhausted,” said Eskom distribution executive Monde Bala.

“A transformer damaged by overloading can leave an area without power for up to six months, protecting Eskom’s assets is in the best interest of all South Africans.”

Eskom assured that it would communicate with affected customers through the relevant cluster or province and use the normal channels, including SMS and Customer Connect newsletters.

“Load reduction is a long-established process that Eskom uses in specific areas when there is sufficient electricity available, but a transformer’s integrity is at risk due to overloading,” the power utility explained.

“Load-shedding is used when the national grid is constrained, and there is not sufficient capacity to generate electricity to meet demand,” it continued.

“It is also a proactive measure that Eskom uses to protect human life, equipment worth millions of rands and people’s livelihoods.”

Eskom noted that transformer overloading was recorded mainly during peak hours around 05:00 and 07:00 in the morning, and 17:00 to 19:00 in the evening.

“In areas where load reduction has been implemented in the past, Eskom has seen a significant reduction in equipment failure and prolonged outages.”

During winter, Eskom said there is an exponential increase in energy demand in areas prone to electricity theft, as electricity is often used indiscriminately, leading to network failure due to extreme overloading.

“There are currently around 2,111 transformers which are frequently overloaded across the country at risk of being damaged, with around 900 transformers awaiting replacement,” it said.

Eskom said it has invested resources and increased capacity to meet the exponential demand in these areas prone to overloading over time.

Despite these investments, demand has continued to grow, rendering the situation unsustainable.

“Eskom has been engaging with various communities, educating them on the safe and efficient use of electricity. In some areas, Eskom has removed illegal connections; however, network overloading persists.”

Eskom said that while it aimed to exclude paying customers from load reduction, the network’s configuration does not allow for dedicated supply lines to paying customers, making it impractical to service them separately.

“To prevent load reduction and abrupt loss of supply, customers are urged to reduce their consumption, ensure that the electricity they consume is legally connected, paid for, and purchased from legal vendors, and to report illegal activities,” it said.

“Additionally, customers are encouraged to switch off non-essential appliances, such as heaters and geysers, and use alternative heating methods.”

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