South Africa's Eskom to reduce power cuts but long-term outlook bleak

Energy company Eskom announced that South Africa's town of Clarens in the Free State has become the country's first town to manage its electricity demand during load curtailment.

Bibi Bedir, Eskom Free State Senior Manager for Retail, noted that Clarens, which is located in the eastern part of the province, is the only town across the country that manages its load curtailment by making collaborative efforts to reduce load when requested.

Bedir explained that "once the system emergency is declared, Eskom gives a nominated group coordinator two hours' notice of load curtailment that should be sustained throughout load shedding," SA News reported.

The coordinator of the group guides the community and decides which equipment will be switched off to meet the request for demand reduction.

"For the residents of a tiny town that depends on an economic inflow from tourists visiting their small businesses mostly over weekends and holidays, power interruptions due to load shedding required a solution that would allow the town's economy to thrive while still contributing to a reduction in electricity demand when the national grid is under strain," Bedir added.

Gert Kruger, who serves as the town's nominated group coordinator, described this move as "life-changing" for the business owners in the town. He said that this town depends on tourism and not being subjected to load shedding is life-changing.

"Although the success depends on the voluntary participation of residents and businesses, we have the community's support as everyone benefits from cooperating," he said, adding that "feedback from visitors, restaurants and accommodation establishments is very positive and without the noise of generators, tourists can enjoy Clarens' natural beauty."

Eskom noted that during the curtailment Stages 1 to 4, the customers are requested to reduce the demand by 10% to 20%. This is not like load shedding when the customers are switched off automatically as per the decided schedule by the energy company.

According to the power utility, the load curtailment must be sustained and to ensure the same, Eskom is continuously monitoring the reduction in demand of its curtailment customers.

"A meter was installed at the town's main point of supply. Every 60 seconds, the meter sends real-time statistics of the town's current demand, prompting further reduction if required," Eskom explained. "So far, the project is successful with residents being able to sufficiently reduce and manage their load."