Bracing for Power Crisis: New Guidelines Tackle Stage 9 Load Shedding & Beyond

Dark Winter
  1. A new code of practice is nearing completion to guide municipalities on how to respond in the event of Stage 9 load shedding or beyond, addressing the ongoing energy crisis in South Africa.
  2. The National Rationalisation Specifications (NRS) association is managing consultations with various stakeholders in the energy sector to create a comprehensive set of guidelines.
  3. The updated code, which will be submitted to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) for legal status, aims to prevent errors that could lead to the national grid collapsing and to provide a framework for more severe load shedding scenarios.

As South Africa continues to grapple with power supply challenges, a new code of practice is nearing completion, outlining how municipalities must respond in the event of Stage 9 load shedding or beyond. The National Rationalisation Specifications (NRS) association, responsible for managing consultations surrounding the code of practice, has been working closely with various stakeholders in the energy sector to create a comprehensive set of guidelines.

Eskom’s National Control Centre or System Operator has the responsibility of deciding when and how much load shedding is necessary. This decision is then relayed to bulk electricity users and distributors, such as municipalities, who are instructed to drop the load to stabilize the grid frequency and balance demand with supply.

The codes of practice determine how the load is shared among users. The previous code of practice provided directives up to Stage 8, as higher stages were not considered likely at the time. However, given the ongoing energy crisis, it has become necessary to prepare for more severe load shedding scenarios.

Vally Padaychee, chair of the NRS association, stated in a recent interview that the new code will be submitted to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) within the next few days. Once Nersa adopts the code, it will gain legal status. The codes are based on the key principle of equity, as prescribed in the Electricity Regulation Act.

Padayachee emphasized the urgency of finalizing the updated code, as there is no guarantee that the country will not experience load shedding beyond Stage 8 during the winter season. In the absence of a new code, the System Operator and municipal electricity distributors would have to rely on their own operating procedures to protect the national grid, increasing the likelihood of human error.

The NRS code, according to Padayachee, serves as an “excellent tool designed to prevent System Operator and municipal electricity distributors from making errors that could lead to the national grid collapsing.”

The NRS association involves all entities in the electricity supply and distribution industry, including municipalities, Eskom, and Nersa. The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) is also a part of the association.

Each load shedding stage requires 1,000 MW to be dropped from the grid. Stage 8, for example, entails 48 hours of load shedding within a four-day cycle of 96 hours, implemented in 12 four-hour blocks. This means that during Stage 8, consumers will be without electricity for half of the time.

Stage 9 would require more hours of load shedding, and the objective of the new code is to advise on how this would be implemented between various load centers.

In addition to load shedding by electricity distributors, the system operator also uses “curtailment” of large industrial customers to balance the grid. The scale of load reduction, which is the technical term for load shedding, therefore includes both load shedding and curtailment.

While the NRS codes guide municipalities, the system operator retains the sole right to decide when and how to balance the load – using both load reduction and reserves, such as pumped storage or diesel – on a minute-to-minute basis.

Padayachee, rumored to be shortlisted for the position of Eskom CEO, did not comment on the selection process, as it is still ongoing.

The updated code of practice will provide a much-needed framework for municipalities and the energy sector as a whole, as they prepare for the possibility of more severe load shedding scenarios in the future.

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