Goodbye load-shedding — Eskom wants to let more South Africans use some electricity during power cuts
By: Myles Illidge - MyBroadband
Eskom says its load-limiting pilot in Fourways and Riverside View has been well-received by the public, and it plans to roll out the initiative to every province by February 2024.
Load-limiting lets customers continue to use electricity during Eskom’s rotational power cuts, provided they keep their usage under ten amps.
The power utility told MyBroadband that it plans to roll out the system nationally in August 2023. However, it has yet to begin expanding the initiative.
“We have not commenced with the national rollout of load limiting,” said Eskom.
“However, we are in the process of implementing it across the country as a result of the successful implementation of the pilot in Fourways and Riverside View.”
“There is a plan to add more areas in each province by February 2024,” it added.
Eskom attributed its decision to roll out load-limiting nationally to the success of its pilot in Fourways and Riverside View.
“One of the objectives of load limiting is to allow customers to have access to minimal usage of electricity during lower stages of loadshedding,” it said.
“We have successfully managed to do this since the launch of the pilot. We can therefore say that the public is receiving the programme very well hence the decision to roll it out nationally.”
Eskom launched its load-limiting pilot in June 2023 when it rolled out to residents in Fourways and Riverside View, northern Johannesburg.
It aims to let residents use non-power-hungry appliances like lights, TVs, and electrical equipment without elements during load-shedding stages one to four.
“Eskom is in the process of implementing the Load Limiting Project nationally, with the pilot starting on Friday, 23 June 2023 in Fourways,” Eskom said in a statement.
The system is part of the power utility’s demand-side management initiatives and focuses on customers with smart meters installed in their homes.
It reduces these residents’ electricity capacity from 60/80 Amps to 10 Amps, meaning they can continue to use electrical equipment provided they don’t exceed the 10 Amp threshold.
“An hour before the start of load-shedding, the system will prompt customers to reduce their consumption to 10 Amps by sending a message to their customer interface unit (CIU) and cellphone,” said Eskom.
“The system will provide the customer with four opportunities to reduce their consumption, and thereafter, if the load has not been reduced, the meter will automatically switch off the electricity supply for the duration of the load-shedding period.”
The power utility told MyBroadband that the lessons it learned during pilot testing will assist with its further rollout.
Load-limiting challenges and confusion
Eskom noted that the Fourways and Riverside View pilot project wasn’t without its teething issues. Eskom said it frequently had to cut supply to homes that exceeded the 10 Amp threshold.
“When we began with the project, there were many instances where customers were switched off because they exceeded the 10 amps threshold,” it said.
“We are happy to report that at this stage, we hardly have customers that go above the threshold.”
It attributed the pilot’s success partly to its constant engagement with participating customers.
“At times we had to dispatch the technical team to site to diagnose and resolve the technical challenges experienced by customers,” Eskom added.
There is some confusion relating to how the system works, with Eskom saying only standalone houses and those in larger estates where each property has its own designated external Eskom meter and individual account are eligible for load-limiting.
However, I live in a complex with one meter and a single Eskom account supplying 425 units, and I haven’t experienced load-shedding since the pilot launched, other than when Eskom’s rotational power cuts exceed Stage 4.
We asked Eskom how this was possible, but it didn’t answer the questions directly and reiterated that only households with smart meters were eligible.
“The 10 Amps is based on individual customers (households),” it said.