Eskom’s load shedding ‘philosophy’ is nonsensical

The least disruption will come from ensuring that outages are entirely predictable.
Eskom’s plan to artificially halt load shedding during peak traffic hours creates the misconception that it is able to control load shedding. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

As the possibly now permanent round of Stage 2 load shedding kicked in at the end of January, Eskom attempted to ensure that there would be no load shedding during the morning peak (06:00 to 09:00).

At the time, it said this was “an effort to minimise the impact on traffic”. In the first week of February, it also attempted to ensure that load shedding would be artificially halted from 16:00 to 18:00 to “ease traffic congestion”.

Read: Eskom warns SA to brace for more frequent power cuts 

Eskom said: “Suspending loadshedding [sic] during the peak traffic hours is a pilot programme aimed at achieving an appropriate Loadshedding Philosophy for the country. As this is not possible everyday [sic], it will be confirmed each day, dependent on the risk based on the available capacity and emergency reserves on the day.”

Aside from the inanity of describing this as an “appropriate load shedding philosophy”, there are a number of problems with this short-lived plan.

First off, load shedding is a function of the shortfall between demand and available supply.

Given stubbornly high plant breakdowns, the inability to forgo planned maintenance any longer, as well as higher-than-average demand, Eskom is simply not able to meet current demand. Emergency reserves – pumped storage schemes and (diesel-powered) open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) – are being used to keep the lights on, while maintaining an appropriate operating margin.

Eskom cannot use every megawatt of supply it has at a given point in time in case units trip.

Following a strategy where it artificially halts load shedding during peak traffic hours creates a hugely problematic public misconception that Eskom is able to control load shedding. Poke around any number of neighbourhood Facebook groups, and you’ll see tons of ill-informed ‘facts’ about this.

Just days into Eskom’s “pilot programme”, it was unable to “pause” load shedding due to a shortage of generating capacity.

Conflicting schedules

The peak time periods for traffic also conflict directly with metro, municipal and Eskom-direct schedules across the country. Some run four-hour blocks, others two-hour ones. Most start and end on even hours (16:00, for example), but some start and end on odd hours. This means the “pauses” directly conflict with lots of municipal schedules. What happens at 09:00? Do you load-shed an entire block for one hour? (Hint: no.) Also, how does a municipality or metro plan to implement – or not implement – load shedding based on notifications from Eskom that arrive at 22:00 the previous night or later?

Operationally, trying to halt load shedding for two, three or five hours a day introduces a massive and unnecessary risk.

It cannot magically generate the assumed 2 000 megawatt (MW) shortfall at 06:00 or at 16:00. There is a gradual build up of capacity, especially when it comes to coal baseload plants. Only emergency plants (pumped storage and OCGTs) are able to provide power relatively instantly, and Eskom needs to try and keep this proverbial powder dry.

Quite why Eskom assumes it is burdened with the responsibility of ensuring that there is electricity during peak traffic times is anyone’s guess.

Is this an attempt to endear itself to the public when its credibility is at a near all-time low?

The responsibility of ensuring minimal impact on traffic, especially in the large metros like Joburg, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, Tshwane and eThekwini (Durban) lies with these metros themselves.

A year ago I wondered out loud why there was no coordinated management of this crisis.

Read: Load shedding need not be so predictably shambolic

I noted that: “A coordinated effort should be in place to get people to and from the major economic hubs (CBDs and industrial areas) in the major metros with as little disruption as possible. Transport corridors are well understood. Well over 100 000 people drive into Sandton each day. A far bigger amount travel to the Joburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town city centres, from where they travel onwards to their places of work.

“Why has logic not prevailed when it comes to the scheduling of load shedding in these areas during the morning and (particularly) afternoon peaks? There is no value in the whole of Sandton sitting in gridlock because of load shedding between 4 pm and well after 7 pm (as is the case). The same is true of multiple other hubs.”

Nothing has changed in the decade-plus since load shedding first reared its head. And it is doubtful anything will.

Read: Eskom’s plan: Structured and deliberate

There is zero intelligence to load shedding schedules, save for the City of Cape Town’s decision to not load-shed in the City Bowl. Rather, we rely on dogmatic Excel spreadsheets that stack blocks in a systematic pattern across the days of the month. This is an ‘attempt’ to make load shedding ‘fair’ (there is no indication that it even manages to achieve this, not even theoretically). There are countless examples of areas that are ‘spared’ load shedding entirely unpredictably. Sometimes your lights will go off according to the schedule, other times they just won’t.

To minimise the impact of the near-permanent load shedding that will be required over the next 12 to 18 months, it needs to be entirely predictable.

Metros and municipalities around the country need to know exactly what to expect, and when.

These same metros and municipalities have a duty to ratepayers and citizens to ensure that the impact on traffic is kept to a minimum. A simple decision to award the hot potato of a pointsperson contract in Johannesburg, for example, will more than halve the impact of load shedding during peak travel times. Provincial and national government ought to be intervening and holding these metros accountable. We can only hope.




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You can’t put a mouse in charge of a cheese factory and neither can you put an alcoholic in charge of a bottle store. It doesn’t end well.

It is what it is. Perhaps the writer should draw up a better load shedding program?
But, the traffic cops and those type of people should get back controlling traffic at dead robots.

Absolutely, JMPD nowhere in site at dead traffic lights. To make matters worse Outsurance no longer provides points-men.

Political footshot.

Right on!

En route to work every morning between 7am and 8am we have the (dis)pleasure of FOUR traffic cops standing at 1, yes ONE traffic light, WHICH IS WORKING PERFECTLY, directing traffic and causing havoc (Alrbetina Sisulu Road in Randburg). The moment they step aside, dabbing and posing on the sidewalk in their spiffy looking aviator sunglasses and tightly laced boots, the traffic flows normally again. This is, in MHO, an example of how pervasive the lack of substance is in this government. It has no pride, no shame, no solid foundation of respectable principals (or members) which support sustainability – only instant gratification will do. And, in a similarly “instant” kind of way, the ANC will be flushed, and be no more than a skid mark on the underpants of SA history.

Did see about 10 “Cops” manning a roadblock during electricity blackouts but thats all. Priorities first-Hey?!

These are not blackouts this is simply blackmail. All a manipulating exercise to soften us up for the next NERSA presentation.

Hilton, you nailed the issue of the pointsmen…

I will never again vote for the DA, useless bureaucrats that dont care… Just get out of the way and let private companies solve some of the problems… My route home is now less 2 pointsmen and plus 40 minutes of traffic… and yet we have an unemployment problem? Seems like 2 birds one stone… but first lets put a retarded bureaucracy in between…

You blame the DA because there are no pointsmen? You want a pointsman at every dead robot? Wakey wakey BRU.

Get informed pal, the DA runs Jozi… They pulled the right to place pointsman, as it needed to go to tender. Tenders were submitted in 2018, and still have not been adjudicated… Pure and utter DA incompetence…

Nobody knows what is going on, only people trying to resolve this are OUTA. I doubled my contribution to them, purely on this issue, as adding 6 works weeks worth of life per year back to me, is kind of important to me…

I dont want a pointsman at every dead robot, where did I say that?

There are intersections, which have been identified as key to regional traffic flow, where pointsmen have been stationed everyday for years. Now they are not there? DA took them away and my vote went bye bye too…

Maybe if we all lived in the farm lands with no traffic we wouldnt care either…

No BRU. It is the officials that are incompetent.

Not sure where you live buddy – but it’s definitely not Cape Town

Where do you see a cop in Cape Town. I think they only work from 10-3 during most of that time spent at the local garage coffee shop. No Outsurance assistance either.

The cause of the problem doesn’t lie with the DA or any political party… other than the ANC. Have a deeper look at the situation since the power failures from 2008, the same which are with us today.

What positive contribution can you make, or what can you do to ameliorate your condition, instead of looking for convenient but false scapegoats?

So the ANC, in 2019, pulled the FREE Outsurance pointspeople that had been there for the many many years while the ANC ran it until 2016?

Bureautards. There a new word.

Surely we should be informed about the maintenance plan and how it is progressing. It is the abject and ongoing failure to maintain the machinery that has brought this catastrophe upon the nation. Surely there should be a spotlight placed upon this critical issue that has so far been so deliberately and maliciously avoided to this unforgivable extent.
If the perpetrators are allowed to continue doing more of the same, as they have been for decades already, then soon there will be nothing left to talk about. Clearly this the aim and purpose of these overpaid and evidently untouchable saboteurs that continue to terrorize us all.
And please note that a storage scheme does not count as generating capacity. It needs input from the grid before it can give any output.


Hilton, when you have a 250 worker factory in Epping, the DA decision not to load shred the CBD goes down as well as a guy in a Rolls Royce with a “F the Poor”. bumper sticker. It is inexcusable that the fat cats and politicians get a free pass. What makes bankers and lawyers and bureaucrats in the CBD more important than workers and engineers in industrial areas??

The traffic argument is nonsense. How hard can it be to have traffic lights on backup or a protected circuit? There are in any event 5000 times as many workers getting in and out of industrial areas as the CBD. It just looks like a lot in CBD because of the single occupancy…

As to schedule : rather cut whole areas the whole day and be done with it. This chess board schedule is useless for production scheduling. Some production lines stay off the entire day because they can’t be run 7-10, noon-4.

Agree. One single solar panel and a backup battery at the most important intersections would not be prohibitively expensive. Most intersections are LED’s anyway.

It would ensure daytime operation of all major routes. All we need is for one municipality to take the lead.

“One single solar panel and a backup battery” are also high value items and in high demand these days – the perfect match for criminals and thieves.

Would be stolen in 20 minutes

Everything about Eskom is nonsensical. So is everything about SAA and all the SOEs and 90% of municipalities. This government-sponsored farce is a public display of the utter incompetence and irrationality that results from the communist system. The individual who was ultimately responsible for Chernobil, the minister of energy in the USSR, said that he is a “party man”, not an engineer. We know how that turned out.

Gwede Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan are “party men”, communists, cadres and loyal to the ethos of irrationality and incompetence. They want to be in control of everything in the economy while they can’t even control the members of the ANC NEC. They pretend to have information and knowledge, while they improvise as they go along, shoot from the hip, confuse and obfuscate and if that fails, as it always does, then they consult NEDLAC.

The ANC is a copy-and-paste version of GOSPLAN, the central-planning authority in the USSR. They fool themselves with their warped logic and loyalty to incompetence and stupidity. They live in their own universe, divorced from the laws of finance. The power outages, uncontrollable debt levels and sewage in the streets are manifestations of the mindset of the “comrade”. They can pretend all they like, but the evidence is clear to see – intermittent and unreliable mental capacity, false promises and no delivery, and it stinks to high heaven!

This circus can only last as long as the funding lasts, and they are fast “running out of other people’s money”. Our Chernobil will come. In another shape and form maybe, but the damage and fallout will be of similarly epic proportions.

Too true, Sensei. Communism has destroyed (and been kicked out of) some 50 countries worldwide. Germany is a classic case regarding proving/disproving the effectiveness of Communism. The country was divided in two after the 2nd World War – E.Germany Communist, W.Germany free enterprise. Result 10 years later – E.Germany producing smoky, 2-stroke Trabants made partly out of a kind of cardboard, West Germany producing Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs. And West Germany staggered under E.Germany’s poverty when they were reunited. Same people in both countries, different ideologies. Which begs the question: why do we even HAVE a Communist Party here? And one that actually calls the shots that the ANC listens to?

There are distinct differences between people who lived in East and West Germany, even 30 years after the fall of the Wall. The Wall split families apart. They shared the same genes. This goes to show that unaccountability, irresponsible behaviour patterns, the victim mentality and the beggar’s syndrome are not of genetic origin. These traits are the result of a certain political-economic system. Even if Luthuli House falls tomorrow, the victim mentality will be with us for another 50 years.

The system itself will have to select for accountability. In a communist or collectivist system, as we have locally, famine and disease are the tools of natural selection that ensures the survival of only the fittest. Communism is a very cruel and inhumane system if we consider the results and not the intentions.

Why am I, here in JHB, load shedded for 4 hours, yet my mother down in KZN gets two hours a day? I sometimes am hit twice a day for 4 hours!! How do they determine this? And can we get a water schedule too? Quite a few areas got their water cut-off too (perhaps the load shedding is affecting the water supply?)

When will the SA public stop voting for these useless politicians at the ANC?! Ramaphosa you have failed dismally. I attended quite a few financial industry roadshows last week and people I spoke with agree – but who replaces him? who is better?

Actually, JHB is now four and a half hours.

Moral of the story – move to KZN !!

Mum should have two 2h interruptions per day if you have one 4h.

I would rather have one 24h load shred than this mess of varying 2h sessions

It is indeed a mystery why metros do not power traffic lights with solar PV and backup batteries. The technology is available.

The other point is that carefully planned load shedding, with schedules available well in advance, will allow many households and businesses to manage around the off periods, but if they simply move the load to periods when the power is on it defeats the very purpose of load shedding, which is to reduce the total demand on the system. The idea must be to use less energy.

“It is indeed a mystery why metros do not power traffic lights with solar PV and backup batteries. The technology is available.”

One word…”THEFT”

An effective traffic light battery anti theft unit was designed and tender submitted to the city council and was rejected. It was copied by a friend in the procurement dept and resubmitted. That’s how corrupt it all is. Good bye to another clever engineer on his way to New Zealand.

The batteries and solar panels are stolen – faster than cables.

“They” will steal it, even if its useless, why? Because its there & they can.

No need for solar. A traffic light should do well with a 6W “bulb” if LED. So say fourway intersection needs twenty four lights on = 144Wh for jhb 4hrs = call it 600Wh. That is a small battery and charger off mains when mains is on. For the timing, the system can have a fixed algorithm of whatever time is needed per direction. Encased and buried nobody is going to bother.

JHB has blackouts lasting FOUR AND A HALF HOURS. The rest of the country get TWO hours at a time, less than half that. How is this fair? Four and a half hours means the contents of your fridge start defrosting, that back-up batteries on the gates runs out, the cellphone towers stop functioning. It’s complete nonsense. It should be three hours across the board. Everyone the same!

I share your pain, but I couldn’t help noticing, based on your comment, that we (humans/South Africans) are slowly accepting the reality of loadshedding as the Kubler-Ross Change Curve Model suggests, given that you no longer argue about loadshedding but rather about the fair application thereof.

Bring back the days of ‘punitive load shedding’. At least you knew why the lights were out.

Why pontificate the fairness or otherwise of the schedules when large sections of our country that simply don’t pay anything, like Soweto for eg., don’t appear on any timetable for going without power?

Please stop referring to Load shedding! This is not load shedding, this is rolling blackouts! Load Shedding is something Power producers do during emergencies and are planned for very short periods. What we have is a failed power state!


Ever noticed that even with Load Shedding that your account is never less than when you don’t have load shedding.

Also that anything up to 40% of your Water & Lights bill sits under network surcharge, Demand management levy , Service Charge and Network Charges Just another friggen Tax for which you get nothing, ANC’s way of funding free Electricity and Water.

Wonder how “Government / Eskom” will feel if I start payment shedding, new batteries for the Alarms (which you cannot do without thanks to Crime and ZERO Trust in SAPS), Gate virtually month now, Electrical appliances etc etc and when I can afford it the fuel to run my Generator.

“payment shedding” is the solution. We are honest and law-abiding citizens with a delinquent, corrupt and illegitimate government.

We are enabling the criminality and incom[etnece with our financial contributions. We need a new political party – the F-them Party.

Those that don’t pay must get switched off permanently. Then the rest of us will have power 24/7. Easy, simple.

End of comments.



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