Load Shedding

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WHAT IS LOAD SHEDDING

Load shedding, by definition, is the action of reducing the load on something to avoid excessive strain. As South Africans, we know ‘load shedding’ as the interruption of electricity supply to areas throughout the country for extended periods of time.

To most people, load shedding is a measure taken exclusively by power giant, Eskom, and is a concept unique to South Africa. Although practiced worldwide on much smaller scales, load shedding has become a rather frequent occurrence in South Africa, giving rise to such misconceptions. Load shedding, in South African terms, however, would refer to the ‘switching off’ of certain areas, cutting the electricity supply to such areas so that other areas may still have access to power. To ensure fairness, load shedding is implemented across the country and in certain areas at a time.

Load shedding initially came about from Eskom not being able to predict the power consumption patterns of customers of all types. Eskom has not been able to supply the right amount of power since the late 1960’s, and, from the early 1980’s, wide-spread load shedding was introduced. The Electricity service provider has a built up a pattern of not being able to meet the demand with the right amount of power.

At the moment, the demand for electricity is much higher than what Eskom is able to produce. The demand puts enormous pressure on the national power grid, threatening a possible nationwide blackout. Load shedding is seen as the only alternative to avoid such a dire consequence of the ever-increasing demand for power by South Africa and a great portion of Africa. At this point, load shedding is the only thing keeping the entire country from plunging into total darkness, having consequences reaching far beyond just South African shores.

CAUSES OF LOAD SHEDDING

Load shedding… probably the most controversial topic currently on the lips of South Africans. We all know that power goes out, traffic lights stop, shops close their doors for the day and everyone in can be heard saying “thanks Eskom”. But what are the causes of load shedding?

It is important to distinguish that load shedding and power outages are not the same thing. Simply put, load shedding occurs when there is not enough electricity to meet the demands of all customers. This would lead to certain areas supply to certain areas being cut for a set period. If load shedding isn’t implemented, South Africa runs the risk of a national blackout which could be crippling to the country and its already strained economy. If this happened, it could take Eskom over a week to generate the right amount of power needed to kick start the national power grid and restore power to the whole country. A power outage would occur as a result of a number of other reasons.

Eskom will first put measures in place to avoid load shedding from occurring, being seen only as a last resort. The international power giant will first make use of warnings to the public to reduce unnecessary consumption, then gas & hydroelectric power and make use of agreements with much larger customers to reduce their demand. Should all else fail, load shedding then gets set in motion.

Load shedding is Eskom’s way of keeping our country lit up by sharing the pain across all regions and to all people, one area at a time, while it carries out planned and unplanned maintenance on its power stations across the country. This, until Medupi and Kusile power stations fully come online, but even then, we’ll be playing catch up.

EFFECTS OF LOAD SHEDDING

There’s no doubt about it, Load shedding is one of the most annoying things we currently deal with. From not being able to go shopping, grab a quick take out dinner to not being able to get home for hours due to traffic jams caused by load shedding. But is that all that load shedding does? Or does it have a more far reaching consequence?
According to economists, load shedding is undoubtedly hurting our economy and costing the country a fortune in lost revenue and production. Putting some figures to that; its estimated that stage 1 load shedding (10 hours of black outs per day) for 20 days of the month will cost the south African economy an estimated R20 billion. Stage 2, using the same parameters would cost an estimated R40 billion, while stage3 load shedding would cost in the region of R80 billion.

The effects of load shedding are said to be so severe that both the South African Reserve Bank and Eskom have cut their 2015 growth forecasts out of concern of strained electricity supply. It’s certainly difficult to maintain any optimism when seeing utilities of that magnitude are limiting their projections all due to a common cause.

From the major economic climate to the home environment, load shedding is causing wide spread damage. Power surges caused by power being restored are damaging appliances, resulting in short circuiting, malfunctioning and some even being destroyed. This also poses a security risk during and after the black out, and that, before the insurance issue! Will my insurer pay out? Will I take on a loading?

Although a major immediate irritation, there are much more severe consequences of load shedding to just the obvious dead phone and traffic jam. Time to look for alternative energy.

PROTECT YOUR APPLIANCES FROM LOAD SHEDDING DAMAGE

Load shedding is one of those things that we’ve been forced to live with. There’s no denying its obvious effects, but with our plugged in appliances at risk of damage from power surges, what can be done to protect our personal belongings and electronics?

First, lets understand what a power surge is. A power surge is a spike in the electrical current in your home. These can range from a few volts when turning an appliance on, to thousands of volts if lightning strikes a transformer. Although they usually only last for not even a millisecond, they can have devastating effects to your electrical equipment. They usually occur as a result of the flow of electricity being interrupted (eg: load shedding), or when electricity is sent flowing back into the system.

Firstly, make sure your insurance provider will cover you if your equipment is hit by a power surge, especially when caused by load shedding.

Second, where possible, install surge protectors to regulate the massive sudden flow of electricity into a household.

Third, unplug where possible. It may be safest to unplug the actual appliance altogether to avoid any risk of the appliance sustaining damage from the power surge.

While load shedding looks like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t mean that we have to accept the damage it brings with it. at least not all of it. So while directing all our anger and denial of load shedding on social media, at least there are practical steps we can take to do something more constructive about it and save our electronics.

LOAD SHEDDING SOLUTIONS

Although there are measures such as turning off lights and geysers that can be put in place to lessen the effect of load shedding and possibly the amount of load shedding, this would require a national if not international effort. This, more often than not is wishful thinking. So what else can we do in order to stay lit up and make sure we can cook our family a warm dinner?

While Eskom’s customers lose all confidence in their ability to be the provider of uninterrupted power, there seems to be a growing interest in alternative energy. Businesses are starting to boom buying into an alternative energy franchise and many a customer finding themselves in a ‘happy place’ when power goes out for everyone else but them.
The most obvious solution to load shedding appears to be harnessing the power of the sun, solar power. While the sun blazes its natural heat during the day, why not harness that power and store it for later on when you may need it? Or why not store that power and use it later, thereby reducing your electricity bill?

Generators have also made their way into the affectionate speech of South Africans, making them as common in households as pets. Running on fossil fuels, generators are able to exchange a bit of noise for a whole load of light during those eerie bouts of load shedding.

Facing many more years of load shedding, the age old saying shows its truth… “If you want something done right, do it yourself”, and thousands are doing just that by going the route of alternative energy.

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