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Load shedding vs load reduction: What’s the difference?

While Eskom has suspended load shedding for 106 consecutive days (and counting) due to sufficient generation capacity to supply electricity to the country, the issue of network overloading has resurfaced with the onset of winter.

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

About 94% of the total overloaded transformers are in these areas as a result of electricity theft and indiscriminate use of electricity.

Despite continued public information campaigns to customers about the implications of electricity theft activities, Eskom has no other option but to implement load reduction to protect its assets from repeated failures and explosions, which pose a risk to human lives.

“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 Monde Bala, Group Executive for Distribution.

“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,” concluded Bala.

The 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.

Explainer

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, whereas load shedding is used when the national grid is constrained and there is not sufficient capacity to generate electricity to meet demand.

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

Overloading of the transformers is 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.

In areas where load reduction will be implemented, the relevant cluster or province will communicate with affected customers through the normal channels including SMS and Customer Connect newsletters.

Protecting assets

Eskom’s 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. Thus, overloading presents a serious risk to lives and equipment, particularly mini-substations and transformers.

To prevent load reduction and abrupt loss of supply, Eskom has launched the ‘Save Your Transformers, Save Lives’ campaign that urges customers to reduce their consumption, ensure that the electricity they consume is legally connected, paid for, purchased from legal vendors, and to report illegal activities.

During the winter season, 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.

Over time, Eskom has invested resources and increased capacity to meet the exponential demand in these areas prone to overloading.

Despite these investments, the 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.

Key points on load reduction:

• Load reduction is not load shedding
• Load reduction is implemented in areas identified as high-risk due to increased energy consumption
• Implementation will occur during peak hours when demand is highest
• Communication with our customers will be maintained
• Efforts will be made to restore full power as quickly as possible once the risk decreases
• Customers should not report faults during load reduction periods and should treat all installations as live and dangerous

While Eskom aims 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.

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

For tips on reducing the electricity demand of a home or business, click HERE

Customers are urged to report criminal activities such as illegal connections, theft and vandalism that can damage transformers, mini-substations and other electricity infrastructure to the Eskom Crime Line on 0800 112 722.

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