SA’s Eskom reaches 32 days without controlled blackouts

Eskom tender for smart prepaid meters
Eskom has achieved 30 days without imposing controlled blackouts but as public enterprises minister Lynne Brown said this week, the country is not out of the woods yet

South Africa’s parastatal utility Eskom has reached a milestone this week of 32 days of continuous electricity supply.

The utility, which has engaged in controlled rolling blackouts known locally as ‘load shedding’, said in a statement that although the power system “remains constrained, it is stable for the rest of this week with a low risk of load shedding”.    

Reuters reports that the electricity situation has been helped by unseasonably warm temperatures the past few weeks and the start of the Medupi plant, South Africa’s first new power station in 20 years, which has added 794 megawatts to the strained grid.

Load-limiting electricity meters

Instability of the national power supply since June 2014 has resulted in pilot testing of demand management programmes including load-limiting meters.

Johannesburg electricity utility City Power is piloting a load-limiting programme for residents with smart meters in an attempt to ensure households maintain power supply amid rolling national blackouts.

The load-limiting model – the first of its kind in South Africa – is being piloted in 83 houses before it is expanded to all smart meters in City Power’s service area later this year, reports local media BDLive.

City Power plans to use the demand-response functionality of smart meters to warn residents of imminent controlled outages, known locally as load shedding, requesting them to limit their electricity consumption.

The meters are also designed to automatically trip power if consumption exceeds the limit imposed to offset load shedding.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said last week South Africa was not “out of the woods” yet, despite having had several days without power cuts.

Changing consumer behaviour

Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau said the load-limiting model, along with other measures, had the added benefit of changing consumers’ behaviour, which would translate to lighter bills, BDLive reported.

Mr Tau said: “We want people to adapt their practices in a manner that spreads the load. You would shift some of your energy consumption and costs in your home to off-peak periods where charges will be cheaper. You can bring down your overall bill by changing and adapting to the time of use tariff.”

Tau said that if all 330,000 City Power households in Johannesburg were to implement load limiting, with the use of a smart meter, the city could save at least 775MW, which was more than the amount Kelvin power station generated.