LISTEN: Load shedding vs load reduction - what’s the difference?

LISTEN: Load shedding vs load reduction - what’s the difference?

Tshwane has become the latest metro in Gauteng to implement load reduction during peak hours - and according to an energy expert, it's raising some red flags

Eskom: Stage 6 load shedding to continue until Friday

It's been at least 76 days without load shedding - but there are still power cuts in densely populated areas. 

According to energy expert Chris Yelland, this is one of the measures that utilities such as City Power are increasingly implementing to protect overwhelmed infrastructure from total collapse. 

Yelland says it’s not a new concept since Eskom and various other utilities have been doing this for years to protect infrastructure.

In contrast to load shedding, which points to a generation issue, Yelland explains that load reduction is an indication of overwhelmed distribution infrastructure. 

This is mainly caused by general urbanisation, where the infrastructure doesn’t grow with the population, the increased use of geysers, heaters, ovens and stoves in bad weather and electricity theft.

“It’s a sign that electricity distributors are not able to keep up with the increased demand for electricity,” he says. “A good distributor should be planning for this and investing money in it to increase the capacity of its distribution network and to keep it in good order. It’s really driven by the very poor financial state of most municipalities in South Africa.”

Along with this, Yelland is frustrated at what he calls the “naughty-customer-narrative” often spun to the media. 

“Customers are growing,” he says. “The problem lies with the utility, which is not attending to population growth, not attending to electricity theft, and not investing in new and upgraded infrastructure. It’s up to the utilities to solve this problem.”

He adds that communication is key: “When they start cutting people off, they have to keep people informed – the law requires it.


Another term making the rounds is load limiting. 

Yelland says it’s a form of load management that includes various techniques for managing customers’ electricity demand during peak times in a way that “isn’t too intrusive.”

The goal is to move electricity usage from peak times to a time when there is surplus power.

This includes the ability to switch geysers off remotely using a technique called ripple relay. 

“Think of it as having something like a little radio receiver in your distribution board,” he explains. “When supply and demand get out of hand, you send a radio signal to the area that has to switch off its geysers. There’s a receiving device that picks up that signal and trips out the geyser.”  

Yelland describes this as a non-invasive approach in certain cases that only lasts a short while so that when peak times are over, geysers start heating water up again when there’s a surplus of energy.

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