Escalation of load-shedding protocols is an admission that the electricity crisis could get worse

Issued by Samantha Graham-Maré MP – DA Shadow Minister of Electricity
08 May 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Samantha Graham-Maré MP

News last week of the finalisation of protocols dealing with Stage 9 load-shedding and beyond is nothing short of horrifying as South Africans struggle to cope with the 8 – 10 hours of blackouts a day imposed by the current Stage 6.

Stage 8 would see at least 12 hours a day without power in blocks of 4 hours and Stage 9 even worse. In addition, a move beyond Stage 8 would herald not only load-shedding, but electricity curtailment. This would require large energy users to further reduce their power usage. The negative impact on industry would be extreme, with a disastrous affect on jobs and the economy.

Four-hour blocks of load-shedding reduce the ability of Municipalities to provide water to residents as there is insufficient time for them to refill reservoirs when there is power. Cellphone towers begin to lose the ability to transmit signal after 3 hours, leaving rural towns and villages without communications during the 4 hour stretches. Smaller food retailers do not have the capacity to keep meat and other products cold for extended periods and there is a very real risk of contamination and food poisoning. Small businesses like hairdressers, printing shops, bakeries and seamstresses are unable to operate for hours on end without power, severely restricting their ability to generate an income and keep their businesses sustainable. Most cannot afford a generator or the fuel to run one.

The National Rationalisation Specifications (NRS) association, which is the body responsible for drafting the load-shedding protocols, has consulted extensively and estimates that they will submit the new schedule to the National Energy Regulator (NERSA) shortly. The purpose of these protocols is to ensure that all entities involved in the distribution and supply of electricity follow the same rules and procedures in the operationalising of load-shedding, in order to prevent a total grid collapse.

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the proactive approach by NRS to prepare for Stage 9 load-shedding and beyond. However, the idea of such extreme measures is abhorrent. With the establishment of the National Energy Crisis Committee and the development of the Energy Action Plan in 2022, we were assured that the energy crisis was receiving priority. 8 months later, with no improvement in the situation, we were advised of the appointment of the new Minister of Electricity, Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, who was tasked with driving the Energy Action Plan. Almost 5 months into this year and we have had 2 days without load-shedding. And now we are being asked to brace ourselves for Stage 10 in the coming winter.

South Africans cannot take much more. The President needs to finalise the powers of Minister Ramokgopa who, in turn, needs to deliver on the myriad promises made since last year. The government needs to stop dilly-dallying and do whatever it takes to resolve this crisis. Our country needs relief. Our people need action. And our energy crisis needs resolution.