Eskom has taken a proactive step to address the ongoing challenges of load shedding by expanding its load limiting pilot program. Initially launched in Fourways in June of this year, the program has now been extended to encompass additional areas including Beverley, Lonehill, Craigavon, Magaliessig, Dainfern Valley, Witkopen, and Douglasdale.
Eskom Expanded Initiative to Reduce Residential Load Shedding
The primary objective of this initiative is to contribute to Eskom’s demand-side management program, which aims to alleviate strain on the national power grid and reduce the frequency and severity of load shedding by managing overall electricity demand.
Smart Meter Requirement
It’s important to note that this program exclusively involves smart meters, where Eskom has a certain degree of remote control over electricity consumption.
Therefore, only customers with smart meters are eligible to participate. This technological requirement is pivotal in enabling the load limiting functionality.
Load Limiting Procedure
Participants in the pilot program are subject to load limiting, a process that allows them to continue using essential appliances like lights, refrigerators, televisions, and Wi-Fi routers during load shedding Stages 1 to 4, as long as the load remains below 10 Amps.
An hour prior to the commencement of load shedding, the system sends prompts to customers via their customer interface unit (CIU) or cell phone, encouraging them to reduce their electricity consumption from 60/80 Amps to 10 Amps.
Customers are provided with four opportunities to comply with the load reduction request. However, if the load remains above the specified limit after these prompts, the smart meter will automatically disconnect the electricity supply for a period of 30 minutes.
Positive Reception and Cost-Efficiency
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has reported a positive response from participants in the pilot program.
Importantly, since the initiative has been implemented in areas where customers already have smart meters, Eskom has incurred no additional costs in its expansion.
Minister Gordhan emphasized that Eskom is leveraging the functionalities embedded in existing meters for the benefit of both customers and the power utility, enabling load limiting to be rolled out in all areas with smart meters without incurring extra expenses.
Addressing Remote Control Concerns
In response to concerns regarding remote control over customers’ electricity usage, Minister Gordhan clarified that this is not the primary purpose of the pilot program.
Furthermore, he stated that no complaints have been lodged in this regard. Participants have expressed their support for the initiative, highlighting its positive reception.
Aiding Load Shedding Mitigation
While Eskom has made some progress in improving its energy generation capacity, it still faces challenges in meeting the electricity demand.
Eskom has stressed that without substantial investment in new power generation and effective demand-side management, load shedding will persist in South Africa for at least the next five years.
Notably, a reduction in electricity demand has been witnessed in recent weeks, partially attributed to increased adoption of alternative energy sources, such as rooftop solar installations, which have doubled in 2023.