Can We Expect Further Load-shedding?

Load-shedding has reared its ugly head again. With a cold winter approaching, can we expect further blackouts and how can we prepare?
Jason Snyman
2018-06-15
Things haven’t been going too well over at Eskom. As so many South Africans discovered on the evening of 14 June, load-shedding has reared its ugly head again. Following the parastatal’s decision to cut salary increases for the year, citing financial difficulties, the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) and NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers South Africa) took to striking. Workers are reportedly demanding a 15% wage hike. The matter has been referred to the CCMA. Eskom spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, said that it had been a difficult day, particularly around Eskom power stations where incidents of sabotage and intimidation were reported. Eskom employees and members of the union were deliberately switching off some of the distribution networks. There were also several reports of road blockades, attacks on staff, and wilful damage to electricity infrastructure. For security reasons, all coal deliveries were also halted.
“So far, the centre is still holding but things are falling apart around our systems,” said Phasiwe. “From 3am – when some of our people who were going to work were stopped before they even got there. And also at the power station levels, the roads were blockaded, which was making things very difficult. We also have intimidation, where at least one person has been hospitalised.”
The parastatal was therefore unable to ensure an uninterrupted power supply. Due to the severe power constraints, Eskom had no choice but to commence with Stage 1 load-shedding in the evening – from 17:41 to 20:00. The situation, at the moment, remains tense. Eskom has stated that if protesting continues, and if workers continue to sabotage the power supply, load-shedding could continue on the 15th.
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Eskom Is Falling Apart

Power stations worst-affected by the industrial action were Hendrina, Camden, Kendal, and Arnot. Concerning Eskom’s claims about load-shedding returning on the 15th due to the strike, NUMSA has called shenanigans.  The union’s Phakamile Hlubi said the claims by Eskom are propaganda and called them outrageous. He stated that all throughout Wednesday, Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe told the public that Eskom had a Plan B if NUMSA members were to shut down.
“So, where’s Eskom’s Plan B then, after claiming that they had a Plan B, and that nothing will be affected? So, why is it that suddenly these interruptions are now being blamed on our members? That’s completely outrageous.”
In the meanwhile, Eskom has reportedly obtained a court interdict against striking workers. The order reportedly prevents workers from tripping the power supply, hijacking coal trucks, interfering with coal supply, blocking entrances, and intimidating other employees. Regardless, winter is pretty much here and as everybody knows, electricity usage soars in the cold months. Eskom has told parliament that the grid is stable and that it is prepared to meet the demands of winter. Although the new board is certainly trying, how could we possibly be comforted? The beleaguered company has been unreliable in the past – proving itself to be underprepared and clumsy. Let’s take Cape Town’s water crisis, for example. Day Zero was only narrowly avoided due to citizens beginning to save water way ahead of time. And then there’s Eskom, which only submitted tenders for emergency coal supplies last week. The company has already admitted that it is between 3 and 5 million tons of coal short. This problem should have been foreseen and sorted out a long time ago.  

Preparing For Further Load-Shedding

We could be facing a bleak winter. Independent energy expert, Ted Blom, has told Fin24 that there is more than a 50% chance that we will experience load-shedding this winter. His claims are substantiated by reliable sources at Eskom. So, just in case, let’s have a look at how you can prepare for the worst. The most important aspects to consider during load-shedding are things we usually take for granted. Think about communication, access, security, heating, cooling, transport, safety and cash. Bear in mind that it won’t just be your home affected, but all of the surrounding area – including many ATMs and fuel pumps.

Here Are Some Handy Tips

  1. When load-shedding schedules are announced, print them out and stick them up on your fridge. This way, you’ll know when to prepare for a power outage.
  2. Keep your cell phone charged or invest in a power bank in case of emergencies.
  3. LED lights can be connected to a rechargeable battery backip.
  4. Basic security such as alarm systems, garage doors and electric gates rely on electricity. Many of these also run on backup battery power in the event of load-shedding. If your alarm system does not, you need to be extra cautious and it’s a good idea to purchase a mobile panic button running on batteries.
  5. Ensure that your electric motor gates and doors can be switched over to manual operation.
  6. Stock up on candles and batteries. Oil lamps are also a good investment, and so are flashlights or solar / battery powered lanterns.
  7. If you’re aware of a pending blackout, keep a thermos flask with boiling water for a warm cup of coffee or tea.
  8. If you don’t open your fridge and freezer repeatedly, your produce should remain safe overnight.
  9. Gas powered stoves are great for cooking and boiling more water. Be sure to use this safely and in a well-ventilated area.
  10. A portable generator is always a wise investment, if your budget allows it. If you have one, test it every month to ensure it’s in good working order and keep enough fuel handy.
  11. Keep a first aid kit handy in case somebody injures themselves in the dark.
 

Update: Eskom has indeed confirmed that load-shedding will take place on Friday the 15th.