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What year did load shedding start

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What year did load shedding start

A Look Back

The history of load shedding in South Africa dates back to the late 20th century. Due to a rising population and increasing energy demands, local electricity distribution companies resorted to controlled switching off of selected areas throughout the country beginning in 1985. This practice was commonly known as “load shedding” and it had devastating effects on South Africa’s economy, industry, and citizens. In 1996, the National Energy Regulator (NERSA) passed amendments to optimize conditions for load shedding and other related issues.

Still in its early phase at that time, load shedding started becoming more common throughout South Africa during the 2000s as electricity demand outpaced supply. Rolling blackouts cut service up to 8 hours in some parts of the nation and as a result of this disruption, businesses were badly affected and infrastructure was often damaged due to low-quality electrical materials. In 2008, amid constant electricity shortages, state-owned power utility Eskom famously declared a national “energy crisis”.

The latest episode of load shedding began in October 2018 when Eskom announced up to four hours of outages per day across regions in South Africa due to a lack of reserve power capacity. By January 2019 most of the country was facing stage 2 or stage 4 outages which put extra strain on households and businesses who relied heavily on electricity for their day-to-day operations. Load shedding still continues today with uncertain schedules changing from week-to-week based on demand levels imposed by NERSA regulatory structures.

Through these ups and downs, one thing has remained true: since 1985 load shedding has been part of life for all generations living in South Africa – and it looks like it will be here for some time yet to come.

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Facts & Figures

Load shedding in South Africa started in 2008 when the Eskom electricity grid could no longer meet the country’s power demands. At the time, Eskom was producing only 40% of the available capacity and had to reduce demand through controlled power outages, dubbed load shedding.

This shortfall was exacerbated by underinvestment in infrastructure; generators had become old and inefficient while new plants were not keeping up with the demand for electricity. As a result of inadequate generation capacity and weaknesses in transmission lines, national peak demand regularly outstripped supply-side sources during peak hours.

The impact of load-shedding was severe, with major industrial processes halted for whole days at a time or even over weekends when operations cannot be sustained at half-capacity. The direct losses incurred by businesses have been estimated at ZAR 12 billion annually between 2008 and 2019. Shutdowns hiked unemployment levels as labor productivity fell significantly – especially within manufacturing industries hit hardest by load shedding, such as agriculture and forestry production. The knock-on effect reached sectors that rely on transport services to move incoming raw materials and outgoing finished products.

In addition, households have suffered from on-and-off blackouts since 2008, depriving people of essential services like lighting, refrigeration, entertainment systems and more recently access to remote educational tools needed during lockdown due to Covid 19 pandemic restrictions.

So far efforts to create additional generation capacity – via coal (Medupi Power Station) wind (Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm), solar (Kathu Solar Park), gas and pumped storage schemes – have mitigated this problem somewhat but continued investment is required if South Africa is to achieve reliable baseload power anywhere near meeting current projected demands by 2025/2026.

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Finding Solutions

South Africa has been grappling with electricity shortages since 2008. Demand for electricity began to exceed the supply from Eskom, the country’s power generation utility, leading to a series of “load shedding” events – deliberately turning off electricity for certain areas in South Africa to ensure that the rest of the country had enough electricity. This marked a challenging time for all citizens, as many businesses and government functions were affected. With India’s economic growth also surging alongside increased consumption of energy, they too have suffered from load shedding events since 2011.

The impacts of these load shedding events have been far-reaching – business owners have reported losses due to downed inventory; medical facilities in rural areas run without reliable RTG systems; home computers stall mid-operation, and there are no guarantees over when electricity will be supplied again. Despite numerous Government policies enacting guaranteed uninterrupted grid operations, it appears that load shedding is here to stay – at least until cheaper alternatives can be sourced and implemented.

Given this on-going dilemma, many organizations are searching for workarounds for a more reliable energy source. Private companies are exploring great heights and depths to find sources of alternative energy that are not only cost effective but also constant and sustainable. Businesses in both South Africa and India are revamping their operations by incorporating an alternative energy-generation solution into their premises. Solar plants, wind farms and mini power grids are being adopted as ways to ‘unplug’ from the traditional mains-power grid and depend on self-generated energy solutions instead.

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These solutions alleviate any fear related to outages or slowdowns due to frequent load shedding events, providing a more stable environment for business activity and production processes. Corporate organizations like Cisco Systems Inc., Tata Motors Ltd., Vedanta Resources Ltd., Dell International Services India Pvt Ltd., HCL Technologies Ltd., Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., Syngenta India Ltd., among many others have already adopted such alternative solutions – creating success stories which may inspire other companies operating in industries where downtime caused by load shedding is detrimental towards efficiency and regulatory requirements must be met with little leeway given short notice warnings most often associated with Eskom communication surrounding future power outages.

This ’emergency back-up’ plan implemented by these companies can help break the cycle of poverty created by economic losses made due to Eskom’s persistent problems with its supply network volatility throughout South Africa & India – greatly contributing towards their communities benefiting across industry sectors reliant upon reliable grid access often taken for granted in developed markets worldwide.

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