Buffalo City Metro (BCM) residents may have to brace for up to 12 hours a day without electricity, as the city will likely ramp up load-shedding to stages 4 and 8 from next month.
Municipalities around the country have been advised to review their practices and adjust the load-shedding schedule from stages 1 to 3 upwards to include all the stages to 8, BCM said on its Facebook page on Friday.
On Sunday, acting municipal spokesperson Bathandwa Diamond told DispatchLIVE the move from stages 4 to 8 was due to the approval of the revised new government standard, known as NRS 048-9, which had been implemented to organise the way the rolling mass blackouts were implemented during periods of supply incapacity and the handling of critical loads by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa).
Though she could not provide DispatchLIVE with information on when the hikes would be, Diamond said, “BCM has been working on the new schedules and will issue them soon”.
The council has not given the plan a thumbs-up. The matter has yet to go to council, where it is expected to be discussed.
In one of two posts, the municipality said rolling blackouts were a controlled way to ensure the national power grid remained stable enough to avoid a countrywide blackout.
“The higher the load-shedding stage, the more frequently residents will experience load-shedding. Should the country and municipalities reach stage 8, customers will have electricity for 50% of the day.
“Consumers are advised that the current schedule stages 1 to 3 will remain in place until February 1 2020, unless the country moves above stage 4 at any time sooner, which will result in … stages 1 to 8 being implemented and remaining.”
Updates on these would be provided as and when they happened, depending on the load-shedding stage the country was in, BCM said.
“The metro currently operates 14 blocks [grouping of communities to be load-shed], which is due to increase to 19. Above stage 4 will result in the overlapping of blocks to commence. BCM load-sheds blocks for a period of two hours, which will increase to three hours per block, subject for review to four hours at a later stage,” BCM said.
The city said if businesses continued to reduce their electricity consumption by 20%, they would not be affected.
To get comment from Eskom on Sunday, the Dispatch sent questions to its Eastern Cape spokesperson, Zama Mpondwana. He sent them to national spokesperson Dikatso Mothae, who replied in a WhatsApp message: “You need to speak to the municipality, they need to comment on this.”
BCM DA councillor Andre Swart described the plan as “ludicrous”, adding: “It has not been accepted yet. It has to go to council first.”
On Sunday, Eskom released a statement on Twitter, saying there was no load-shedding across the country at the weekend.
“We have successfully returned Koeberg Unit 1 to service after a planned outage, which has added an additional 900MW to the system. Our teams continue to work around the clock to return units from planned and unplanned outages.
“The additional capacity brought online, as well as lower demand over the weekend, has allowed us to replenish our pumped storage schemes, and we continue to work to improve on the levels of diesel at our open cycle gas turbines generators.”
Owing to inadequate maintenance over a number of years, the system remained vulnerable to unplanned outages and breakdowns, the utility said.
On Friday, Eskom board chair Jabu Mabuza resigned after the power utility failed to keep a promise he had made to President Cyril Ramaphosa that there would be no load-shedding between December 11 and January 13.
Cosatu called for the board to resign at the weekend, while Numsa agreed and called for Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer to step down. Numsa also called on the ANC to recall public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, describing him as “overwhelmed”.