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Tuesday, 09 July 2024 09:05

Eskom to implement load reduction in areas where local grids are overloaded.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

State owned power uitlity Eskom will implement load reduction in seven provinces supplied by the utility, citing increased demand for power during the cold snap and electricity theft. 

The utility stressed that load reduction is not load shedding, as sufficient capacity remains available. However, on a local level, overloaded infrastructure like transformers can lead to a domino effect of blowouts, which needs to be prevented.

The colder weather this week has exacerbated the situation.

"During the winter season, there is an exponential increase in energy demand in areas prone to electricity theft, as electricity is often used indiscriminately, leading to network failure due to extreme overloading," Eskom said.

There are currently around 2,111 transformers which are frequently overloaded across the country at risk of being damaged, with around 900 transformers awaiting replacement.

This issue is prevalent in the Eskom supply areas in Limpopo, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and North West.

"About 94% of the total overloaded transformers are in these areas as a result of electricity theft and indiscriminate use of electricity.

"Despite continued public information campaigns to customers about the implications of electricity theft activities, Eskom has no other option but to implement load reduction to protect its assets from repeated failures and explosions, which pose a risk to human lives, "the group said.

Monde Bala, Eskom Executive for Distribution said that load reduction is only implemented as a last resort, for the shortest periods possible.

Load reduction has been in effect in the City of Joburg for some time already, implemented by local utility, City Power, for some of the same reasons.

"A transformer damaged by overloading can leave an area without power for up to six months, protecting Eskom's assets is in the best interest of all South Africans," Bala said.

In areas where load reduction will be implemented, the relevant cluster or province will communicate with affected customers through normal channels, including SMS and Customer Connect newsletters.

The electricity theft activities are wide-ranging and include illegal connections, network equipment theft, vandalism, meter bypasses and tampering, unauthorised network operations and purchasing electricity from illegal vendors.

Overloading of the transformers is recorded mainly during peak hours around 07h00 and 05h00 in the morning and 17h00 to 19h00 in the evening.

Energy expert Chris Yelland previously told Fullview that load-shedding and load-reduction are distinct concepts with different purposes.

Load-shedding is a solution to what is primarily a generation problem that occurs when Eskom's generation capacity fails to meet electricity demand.

Yelland said, on the other hand, load reduction is one solution to a distribution problem that occurs when the distribution network is overloaded.

He added that to prevent transformers from overheating and catching fire, electricity is switched off during peak hours to reduce the load.

He said overloading is caused by urbanisation, illegal electricity connections, high electricity demand and the metro not upgrading infrastructure and plants.

South Africa has been without load shedding for 103 days, but Eskom warned it's still too early to declare that the country is completely without it.