Eskom’s true load-shedding stages in August and September

Eskom regularly implemented one higher stage of load-shedding than it declared during peak electricity demand periods in August and September 2023.

That is according to MyBroadband’s analysis of the utility’s official peak demand statistics shared on Twitter (now X).

Over the past few years, energy experts and former executives have often accused Eskom of implementing higher stages of load-shedding than it officially declared to the public.

The late energy analyst Ted Blom accused Eskom of hiding the amount of load-shedding it had implemented on multiple occasions and even secretly implementing load-shedding, dating as far back as 2001.

In October 2021, Blom said that Eskom had been understating the level of load-shedding implemented on “just about every night” for the last two years. Eskom regularly repudiated Blom’s allegations.

According to Eskom’s own definitions of load-shedding, as published on its website and in numerous documents and infographics that are generally available, each stage allows up to 1,000MW of demand to be shed from the grid.

It was only after former Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshanthsha’s effort to provide more transparency around load-shedding that news publications could see the discrepancies in the declared and actual load-shedding stages for themselves.

Mantshantsha started publishing the daily peak demand statistics on Twitter in 2022.

In February 2023, Daily Investor noticed that Eskom had implemented stage 7 and stage 8 load-shedding on two evenings when it had only declared stage 6.

Since then, the utility has repeatedly exceeded the upper limit of load-shedding allowed under each declared stage.

In August 2023, there were 12 days on which Eskom had declared either stage 3 or stage 4 load-shedding but implemented stage 4 and stage 5 load-shedding, respectively.

In addition, Eskom did not publish peak demand statistics for 6 out of the 31 days in August 2023.

Similarly, in September 2023, Eskom has exceeded the stage definitions several times and not published peak demand statistics on four days so far.

The table below shows Eskom’s demand, availability, and load-shedding statistics over peak evening electricity periods in August 2023

Eskom peak demand, availability, and load-shedding in August 2023
Day and dateEskom
Peak demandDemand cut
through load-shedding
Declared load-shedding stageActual stage per Eskom defintions
Tue, 1 August28,693MW33,424MW4,519MWStage 4Stage 5
Wed, 2 August29,721MW33,132MW4,418MWStage 4Stage 5
Thu, 3 August28,719MW31,386MW4,289MWStage 4Stage 5
Fri, 4 August27,434MW30,255MW2,992MWStage 3Stage 3
Sat, 5 August27,957MW29970MW2,849MWStage 3Stage 3
Sun, 6 AugustNot sharedStage 3Unknown
Mon, 7 August28,995MW31,211MW4,343MWStage 4Stage 5
Tue, 8 August27,517MW28,980MW3,040MWStage 3Stage 4
Wed, 9 August27,177MW30,299MW2,996MWStage 3Stage 3
Thu, 10 August27,432MW31,088MW3,192MWStage 3Stage 4
Fri, 11 August26,591MW3,069MW2,882MWStage 3Stage 3
Sat, 12 AugustNot sharedStage 3Unknown
Sun, 13 August27,924MW29,001MW2,984MWStage 3Stage 3
Mon, 14 August28,207MW30,202MW3,189MWStage 3Stage 4
Tue, 15 August27,760MW29,705MW3057MWStage 3Stage 4
Wed, 16 August29,290MW29,953MW3,038MWStage 3Stage 4
Thu, 17 AugustNot sharedStage 3Unknown
Fri, 18 August26,963MW29,528MW2,986MWStage 3Stage 3
Sat, 19 AugustNot sharedStage 3Unknown
Sun, 20 August27,005MW28,626MW2,920MWStage 3Stage 3
Mon, 21 August26,941MW28,373MW3,037MWStage 3Stage 4
Tue, 22 August28,000MW28,331MW3,052MWStage 3Stage 3
Wed, 23 August27,163MW29,204MW3,026MWStage 3Stage 4
Thu, 24 August28,780MW29,044MW2,987MWStage 3Stage 3
Fri, 25 August27,226MW25,734MW2,661MWStage 3Stage 3
Sat, 26 August25,817MW28,108MW2,882MWStage 3Stage 3
Sun, 27 AugustNot sharedStage 3Unknown
Mon, 28 August27,333MW29,342MW2,992MWStage 3Stage 3
Tue, 29 August26,151MW29,851MW4,036MWStage 4Stage 5
Wed, 30 AugustNot sharedStage 4Unknown
Thu, 31 August26,884MW28,555MW3,861MWStage 4Stage 4
Fri, 1 SepNot sharedStage 4Unknown
Sat, 2 Sep24,804MW28,448MW3,664MWStage 4Stage 4
Sun, 3 Sep24,825 MW28,568MW4,544 MWStage 5Stage 5
Mon, 4 Sep25,334MW30,353MW5,067MWStage 5Stage 6
Tue, 5 Sep24,497 MW30,758MW5,991MWStage 6Stage 6
Wed, 6 Sep25,001MW31,660MW6,369MWStage 6Stage 7
Thu, 7 Sep26,509MW32,285 MW6,369 MWStage 6
(+ Load curtailment stage 1 & stage 2)
Stage 6 + Load curtailment
Fri, 8 Sep26,089MW30,137MW5,050MWStage 5Stage 6
Sat, 9 Sep26,367 MW26,428 MW3,463MWStage 4Stage 4
Sun, 10 Sep24,044 MW26,428 MW3,510MWStage 4Stage 4
Mon, 11 SepNot sharedStage 4Unknown
Tue, 12 Sep26,709MW33,423MW6,362MWStage 6
(+ Stage 4 load curtailment)
Stage 6 + Load curtailment 
Wed, 13 SepNot sharedStage 4Unknown
Thu, 14 Sep26,726MW31,902MW6,450MWStage 6
(+ Load curtailment stage 1 & stage 2)
Stage 6 + Load curtailment 
Fri, 15 Sep26,534MW27,842MW3,885MWStage 4Stage 4
Sat, 16 SepNot sharedStage 3Unknown
Sun, 17 Sep28,230MW28,613MW1,901MWStage 2Stage 2
Mon, 18 Sep31,495MW30,893MW3,309MWStage 3Stage 4

Eskom has repeatedly denied that it implemented load-shedding higher than the communicated stages and attributed the differences to demand cut through load curtailment of heavy energy users — like smelters.

However, that does not explain instances where Eskom showed it exceeded the upper limit of each stage and did not mention it implemented load curtailment.

In either event, it did not make provision for load curtailment as a separate mechanism in its communication to the public.

National Rationalised Specifications (NRS) Association of South Africa chairman Vally Padayachee has given another explanation for the discrepancies — Eskom never followed its own rules for load-shedding.

Padayachee recently told eNCA that the utility never used its widely distributed guidelines or definition of 1,000MW-per-stage for load-shedding and typically cut between 800MW and 1,200MW per stage.

This is because the true definitions of load-shedding stages are expressed as a percentage of demand cut, not a fixed amount.

Vally Padayachee, NRS Association chair

Eskom’s load-shedding schedules are set for a change soon if the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) adopts the latest draft document that defines the practice.

The NRS 048-9 Electricity Supply – Quality of Supply: Code of Practice – Load reduction practices, system restoration practices, and critical load and essential load requirements under system emergencies was recently published for public comment.

Under the proposed schedules, which go up to stage 16, each stage of load-shedding will allow for a reduction of 5% in demand.

This will theoretically allow for more power to be cut from the grid under each stage of load-shedding.

For example, stage 1 will allow for anywhere between 1,150MW and 1,600MW to be cut from the grid, depending on the demand at the time.

Whereas stage 6 load-shedding currently only officially allows Eskom to reduce demand by 6,000MW, the new stage 6 will allow for shedding between 6,900MW and 9,600MW.

In the worst-case stage 16 scenario, it is being proposed that Eskom can cut 80% of demand from the grid, which would work out to between 18,400MW and 25,600MW.

The full NRS 048-9 Electricity Supply document is available on Nersa’s website or can be downloaded here. Submissions on the document can be sent to Nersa until 22 September 2023.

The table below outlines the proposed reductions in load under each load-shedding stage for general and load curtailment customers.

StageReduction through load-sheddingReduction through load curtailmentLow demand scenario:High demand scenario:
23,000-24,000MW30,000-32,000MW load
15% of demand10% reduction in normal demand profile1,150–1,200MW1,500–1,600MW
210% of demand10% reduction in normal demand profile2,300–2,400MW3,000–3,200MW
315% of demand15% reduction in normal demand profile3,450–3,600MW4,500–4,800MW
420% of demand20% reduction in normal demand profile4,600–4,800MW6,000–6,400MW
525% of demand30% reduction in normal demand profile5,750–6,000MW7,500–8,000MW
630% of demand30% reduction in normal demand profile6,900MW–7,200MW9,000–9,600MW
735% of demand40% reduction in normal demand profile8,050–8,400MW10,500–11,200MW
840% of demand40% reduction in normal demand profile9,200–9,600MW12,000–12,800MW
945% of demand50% reduction in normal demand profile10,350–10,800MW13,500–14,400MW
1050% of demand50% reduction in normal demand profile11,500–12,000MW15,000–16,000MW
1155% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator12,650–13,200MW16,500–17,600MW
1260% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator13,800–14,400MW18,000–19,200MW
1365% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator14,950–15,600MW10,725–20,800MW
1470% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator16,100–16,800MW21,000–22,400MW
1575% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator17,250–18,000MW22,500–24,000MW
1680% of demandReduction to essential loads or as instructed by System Operator18,400–19,200MW24,000–25,600MW