Load shedding is a term used to describe a deliberate power outage carried out by the national electricity supplier in South Africa, Eskom. The aim is to avoid a total collapse of the electricity system, which would have far-reaching consequences for the economy and the country’s population. Outages have become a regular occurrence in South Africa, with power outages happening regularly, and it is essential to understand how it works and what precautions you can take to stay safe when visiting Cape Town.
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The Causes of Load Shedding
There are several causes of load shedding in South Africa. The primary cause is a lack of capacity in the electricity grid. The country’s power stations are old and in need of refurbishment, and there has been a lack of investment in new infrastructure. This has led to a situation where demand for electricity outstrips supply, and there is not enough power to go around.
Another cause of an outage is the maintenance and repair work required on the country’s electricity infrastructure. Power stations, transformers, and cables need to be serviced and upgraded regularly to ensure that they remain in good working order. This maintenance work can result in power outages as sections of the grid are taken offline.
Finally, load shedding can also be caused by unexpected events, such as the failure of a power station or a sudden surge in demand for electricity. These events can cause a sudden drop in the supply of electricity, which can result in power outages.
The Stages of Load Shedding
Load shedding in South Africa is divided into different stages, with each stage representing a more severe level of a power outage. The stages are determined by the amount of electricity that needs to be shed to prevent a total collapse of the electricity grid. The stages are as follows:
Stage 1: This is the least severe stage of load shedding and involves shedding 1,000 MW of electricity from the grid. This is equivalent to around 2% of the country’s total electricity usage.
Stage 2: This is a severe stage of load shedding and involves shedding 2,000 MW of electricity from the grid. This is equivalent to around 4% of the country’s total electricity usage.
Stage 3: This is a more severe stage of load shedding and involves shedding 3,000 MW of electricity from the grid. This is equivalent to around 6% of the country’s total electricity usage.
Stage 4: This is a very severe stage of load shedding and involves shedding 4,000 MW of electricity from the grid. This is equivalent to around 8% of the country’s total electricity usage.
Stage 5: This is an even more severe stage of load shedding and involves 5,000 MW of electricity from the grid. This means that you may experience 8 hours of power outages in a single day.
Stages 6 and 7: This is almost the most severe stage of load shedding and involves 6,000 MW and 7,000 MW of electricity from the grid. This basically means that the power Eskom would be turning off the power whenever necessary, outside of the load shedding schedule.
Stage 8: This is the most severe stage of load shedding and involves 8,000 MW of electricity from the grid. This could possibly lead to 14 hours of no power and the country would most likely plunge into chaos.
Precautions to Take During
There are several precautions you can take during load shedding to ensure that you and your family stay safe. These include:
- Keep a torch and extra batteries on hand – During an outage, it’s important to have a torch and extra batteries on hand. This will allow you to navigate your home safely and ensure that you have light to read, work, or cook by.
- Unplug all electrical appliances – When the power comes back on after a period of load shedding, there can be power surges that can damage electrical appliances. To prevent this, it’s essential to unplug all electrical appliances before the power goes out. This includes appliances such as televisions, computers, and microwaves.
- Keep your fridge and freezer closed – During an outage, it’s important to keep your fridge and freezer closed to ensure that the food inside stays cold. If you open the fridge or freezer during a power outage, the cold air will escape, and the food inside will start to warm up.
- Use gas or charcoal for cooking – During an outage, it’s a good idea to use gas or charcoal for cooking. This will allow you to prepare meals even when there is no electricity. However, it’s important to ensure that you use gas or charcoal safely and follow all manufacturer’s instructions.
- Charge your mobile phone and other devices – During load shedding, it’s essential to keep your mobile phone and other devices charged. This will ensure that you can communicate with family and friends in case of an emergency. You can use a power bank or a car charger to charge your devices if there is no electricity.
- Keep an emergency kit on hand – It’s a good idea to keep an emergency kit on hand during a power outage. This should include items such as a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food, and a radio. This will ensure that you have essential items on hand in case of an emergency.
Load shedding can be dangerous if proper safety precautions are not taken. Here are some safety precautions to follow during a power outage:
- Avoid using candles – Candles can be dangerous during an outage as they can easily cause fires. It’s a good idea to use battery-powered lights instead.
- Do not use generators indoors – Generators should never be used indoors as they produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. Generators should only be used outdoors in a well-ventilated area.
- Do not touch downed power lines – If you come across a downed power line during load shedding, do not touch it. Power lines can be live and can cause serious injury or death. You should call your electricity supplier immediately to report the downed power line.
- Be cautious when using alternative sources of heating – During an outage, it’s important to be cautious when using alternative sources of heating, such as gas heaters. These heaters can produce carbon monoxide if they are not used correctly, which can be deadly.
Outages have become a regular occurrence in South Africa, and it’s essential to understand how it works and what precautions you can take to stay safe. By following these precautions and safety tips, you can ensure that you and your family stay safe during load shedding. It’s also important to have an emergency plan in place and to be prepared for unexpected events. With the right preparations, you can make load shedding a more manageable experience when visiting beautiful Cape Town.
To stay up to date with the load-shedding schedule:
Download the app: https://esp.info/
City of Cape Town Website: https://www.capetown.gov.za/Family%20and%20home/Residential-utility-services/Residential-electricity-services/Load-shedding-and-outages