South Africa has never experienced higher than stage 4 load shedding, with stage 5 and stage 6 load shedding indicating that Eskom will shed 5,000 MW and 6,000 MW respectively.
Should Eskom decide to escalate load shedding to these schedules, South African residents will be without power multiple times a day (up to six times, or 12 hours), depending on the day’s schedule.
The table below shows how stage 5 and 6 would build on from stage 4 in the City of Joburg:
At the end of 2018, Eskom revised its schedule to include up to eight different stages, with up to 8,000 MW shed from the national grid – effectively doubling the power cut frequency of stage 4.
During stage 8 load shedding, consumers would be without power for 48 hours over four days, or 96 hours in eight days.
Eskom staff are working to assess the breakdowns, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said Tuesday (19 March).
The operational issues at Eskom’s plants were compounded over the weekend by a loss of power imports from neighbouring Mozambique, which was hit by a devastating cyclone.
“I know the most important issue for South Africans is how long will this last and when will you be able to give us certainty that load shedding will end?” Gordhan told reporters.
“At this point in time we are still getting a better grasp of the technical problems and other problems that Eskom power stations are confronting.”
At the first major briefing to explain the fourth day of Stage 4 power cuts, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said that the government and Eskom were determined not to go beyond Stage 4 load shedding where 4000 MW has to be shed in long and regular blackouts to business and residential consumers.
But it is now clear that there is planning to Stage 5 and Stage 6 in order to ensure that there is no national blackout.
“It will be a huge struggle to overcome this crisis,” said Gordhan.
An extensive briefing by Eskom executives and the Department of Public Enterprises on Tuesday has made it clear that the national power supply is more precarious than previously understood. South Africa has bought all available diesel on the high seas (to run emergency power), maintenance of power plants is in crisis because boiler tubes are bursting at eight units across three power stations and there is a planned strike early in April.
What does this mean for you?
Load shedding is here to stay and possibly at extended lengths now being experienced across the country. In addition, Eskom is in dispute with the National Energy Regulator with SA (Nersa) on its calculation of the Regulatory Clearing Account and it wants to be able to implement higher tariff increases.
Nersa gave Eskom much lower additional tariff clearances than it requested, but these already added four percentage points to the allowable tariff of just above 9% for 2019/20. Is there light? A little.
On Thursday, a ship with diesel stocks will dock and this supply will ease the crisis; in 10 days, the government will report back with a deeper diagnosis of South Africa’s power woes.