Preparing For Loadshedding With a New Code of Practice

By Jessie Taylor

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) has released a new and updated code of practice to govern loadshedding, which looks to bolster the country’s plan to address power outages, for consultation. The latest code of practice has been expanded to go up to 16 stages of load shedding, an increase from the eight hours governed by the former edition.

This comes despite loadshedding not extending beyond Stage 6 and improved performance by Eskom this winter. Ahead of winter, Eskom warned that stage 8 load shedding was possible. However, lower-than-expected demand and improved performance from some coal stations have enabled the utility to reduce the intensity of load shedding in recent weeks.

A Coordinated Response

The new code of practice does not indicate that stage 16 of load shedding is likely, but it is rather a way to improve the state of readiness and an action plan for preventing national blackouts. The code of practice looks to coordinate responses from the entities that are responsible for grid stability across the national and municipal systems. The rationale behind expanding the code to address higher load shedding stages is to reduce the potential for human error. Under the previous protocol, once Stage 8 was exceeded, system operators were required to rely on contingency measures instead of a clearly defined code of practice.

This will ensure that operators will be able to follow a mechanical outline that ensures there is no total grid collapse. The NRS 048-9 Electricity Supply document outlines load reduction practices, system restoration practices, and critical load and essential load requirements under system emergencies. The NRS 048-9 will be reworked in the third edition of the Code of Practice following public consultation and replace the second edition currently in use.

The first edition was published in 2010, after the need for such a code arose when rolling blackouts first hit the country in 2008. It regulated rolling blackouts up to Stage 4. The second edition was approved in 2019. The key change in the most recent document comes in a new structure of the stages of load shedding, extending it to stage 16. Currently, each stage of load shedding reflects 1000 MW of power that is removed from the grid. But under the new code of practice, the power removed will be expressed as a percentage of demand, ranging from 5% of demand at stage 1 to 80% at stage 16.

Each stage would reflect increments of 5% versus demand. This would see stage 1 cut off enough users to compensate for 5% of total demand, and Stage 16 would cut off enough users to compensate for 80%. The proposed schedules also include the structure for customers who are part of the load curtailment programme.

Proactive Planning

In a statement, the National Rationalised Specifications Association of South Africa (NRS Association) reassured the public that proactive and detailed planning is implemented to mitigate the risks associated with higher stages of load shedding and to prevent the collapse of the electricity network. This planning is being undertaken with a sense of urgency by experts in both the public and private sectors, says NRS Association chairperson Vally Padayachee.

The NRS Association is a voluntary forum that includes representatives from Eskom, the country’s eight metros, municipalities, the South African Bureau of Standards and Nersa. He says the code of practice provides for an ordered and consistent approach to emergency load reduction but also allows for actions a system operator may deem necessary in real time to ensure the security of the national power system. The code of practice looks to balance three fundamental objectives:

  • An equitable distribution of the burdens caused by an electricity shortage.
    The imperative of avoiding the catastrophic consequences of a blackout.
    The impact of load shedding on “essential loads” and “critical loads”.

The third edition seeks to address the need for a national code of practice for real-time emergency load reduction and restoration of supply after a major system incident. It also provides a structured way for utilities to respond to the NCC’s instruction to reduce load, allowing them to control how the load is reduced; limits and suggestions on ways of managing critical and essential electricity loads; and communication and notification obligations to the public.

“The public is assured that the need to plan for load shedding beyond stage 8 and the removal of the associated contingency measures is primarily a proactive measure to enable the various electricity utilities, especially Eskom, to be in a state of readiness and preparedness to respond in the event of and the need to (but hopefully not) institute load shedding beyond stage 8 levels,” says Vally.

He added that the Association believes that NCC and system operators “have managed load shedding well, often under difficult circumstances, to keep as many of the lights on as possible” and that proactive planning and preparation for load shedding at elevated stages “will prevent errors from occurring”.

Sources: Business Tech | Daily Investor | Daily Maverick | Engineering News | IOL | NRS Association

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