LOADSHEDDING PUBLIC AWARENESS
Simple expert advice for the public
The SAIEE has endeavoured into assisting the public in being aware of information surrounding loadshedding that's implemented by Eskom.This page will serve as an information guide for the public, with SAIEE members supplying simple explanations into loadshedding and definitions surrounding power generation and storage.
Topics that will be covered on this page include, but are not limited to:
1. Electricity and its characteristics. Stress generally not stored VA, W, V, A, and safety aspects
2. Power quality and types of quality/defects
3. Power system stability: frequency, fault levels and inertia
- What is power system stability? Why do technical people worry about inertia of a power system?
4. Explaining Gx, Tx and Dx
5. Characteristics of the South African power system - types of sources, MW of each source and short descriptions of how MW are generated.
6. Explaining the make up of total capacity.
7. Explaining EAF, PCLF, OCLF, etc.
- What does the graph of declining EAF mean? What are load losses that Eskom sometimes talks about? How does wet coal affect electricity availability?
8. Explaining manual loadshedding
- What is MLS? Why is SA experiencing MLS? How long will MLS last?
9. Explain synchronous generation vs VREs. MW, VArs, MWh, MWs. Pros and cons for SA.
- Why do engineers warn against comparing MW from synchronous generators to those of VREs?
10. Giving a clear view of what is and is not known with regards to SA's power system.
12. The basics of maintenance
This page will be constantly updated as and when new information is provided and supplied. Be sure to check back regularly for updated definitions and topics of discussion!
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"UTILITY-SCALE SOLAR PV IN SOUTH AFRICA"
"LOAD SHEDDING: CAN SOUTH AFRICA BE SAVED?"
"OPEN-SOURCE POWER MODELLING CAPABILITY IN SOUTH AFRICA"
Click here to view more presentations on the SAIEE YouTube Channel, SAIEETV.
IT leads prepare for ‘business unusual’ in the event of grid failure
CIOs and IT leaders are under pressure to prepare their organisations for the possibility of extended load shedding or a complete grid failure, however few would be able to sustain business as usual through extended power outages.
This emerged during a high-level round table for CIOs and IT leaders hosted by the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) to discuss how to manage the risks posed by an unstable grid.
Moderated by Carolynn Chalmers (Pr.CIO), an IT Governance advisor and seasoned CIO/CTO, the event saw IITPSA accredited Professional CIOs (Pr.CIOs®) presenting their viewpoints, and attendees responding to polls. Most said increased power outages had been somewhat or very disruptive for their operations, with only 21% saying the disruption had been minimal.
Worst case scenarios
Only 34% of the CIOs and IT leaders attending said they had the necessary business continuity crisis plan, redundant connectivity and backup power reserves to manage a complete grid failure or outage of a week or longer. 38% were equipped to function through outages only up to 6 hours, 7% said they could function through outages of up to 24 hours, and 21% said they had no backup power or crisis plan.
While most have some backup power capabilities, higher stages of load shedding are already taking their toll and causing breakdowns of UPSs and generators. On the backup and alternative power sources they use to support their IT operations, 34% of participants said they use diesel generators, 24% depend on UPS and batteries/inverters, 10% have solar systems only, and 31% use a combination of these power sources. While 17% already have solar systems in place and 31% plan to install solar systems, 52% said they do not have the resources or space to generate the power they need using solar. Stage 8 load shedding or grid failure for weeks would be ‘catastrophic’ for many.
Ari Levien, a Pr.CIO, consultant and former CIO of a listed financial services company, said businesses were being forced to go back to first principles – what they do for their customers – in their planning for a possible grid collapse. “In some planning exercises, leaders are saying ‘in that scenario there’s unlikely to be a market for us, so we won’t even try to function’. Those who operate in socially important services such as emergency services and healthcare are saying ‘let’s talk to customers or competitors and work with them to make a plan’. People who are willing to say it’s not business as usual will come out with the ability to innovate,” he said.
Andrew Roberts, CIO at Clinix Health Group, said: “Realistically, organisations in South Africa aren’t equipped to function in Stage 8 or grid out scenarios. In the health and medical sector, where lives are at stake and load shedding affects areas like authorisations, admissions, pathology, and highly sensitive robotic equipment, one no longer has the benefit of throwing money at it to make the problem go away. Sustained Stage 8 or worse would mean severe disruption to networks, fibre backbones and all points of connectivity. We need to think smarter about how we operate in constrained environments – we proved we can do it during the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve looked at working around loadshedding by changing hours and improvising, to do things better and smarter. We should also be thinking about how we collaborate across the sector to combat the basic challenges to create a more stable operating environment. It’s not about being competitive, it’s about survival.”
In addition to basic power concerns, CIOs acknowledged that extended outages would impact connectivity and could cause social unrest, putting staff at risk.
Louise van der Bank, CIO of AfriSam, noted: “At our administrative offices, many of the continuity requirements are catered for. However, the big challenges are at the operations, where a whole range of issues need to be managed – the fact that we can’t always produce what we planned, customers can’t take what they requested, and the impact on our staff coming to work. Moving shifts to align with available power could pose a risk to staff, who might have to travel at night. In addition, we have seen an increase in crime during load shedding periods.”
She said: “The Covid-19 pandemic was good preparation for this. We enabled remote and hybrid work where possible and started collaboration forums with stakeholders to work together more effectively.”
Adrian van Eeden, CIO at GIBS, added: “There are a lot of unanticipated risks. For example, our mitigation strategy was challenged when our generation capacity failed and we couldn’t find spare generators. There are risks around staff and students to consider – if they themselves don’t have connectivity, they can’t participate and there is a risk associated with them travelling to the campus through load shedding. We have to focus on people – the staff, colleagues and customers.”
Load shedding changes cloud strategies
While CIOS brace for the possibility of extended outages or grid failure, the current load shedding cycle is taking its toll – driving up costs and changing IT operations.
One area impacted by load shedding is cloud migration plans, with some IT leaders speeding up their move to the cloud, and others shelving planned moves to the cloud. 21% said they were moving more workloads to the cloud than they had planned to, and 7% were moving all of their systems to the cloud because of load shedding. 36% were already in the cloud and 25% had not changed their cloud strategy because of load shedding. 11% said they were not moving to the cloud.
Adrian van Eeden said: “We’ve gone all cloud because this spreads the risk geographically. However, there’s a point where your response plan must acknowledge that if the hyperscalers go down, it’s a bigger problem than just us.”
One participant noted that having workloads in the cloud helped organisations avoid downtime during outages, but that where cloud was not an option due to compliance, the cost of backup power was significant.
Many CIOs and IT leaders have also had to learn new skills to build resilience into their operations and manage costs better, with 5% saying they had to develop new electrical knowledge to manage backup power, 21% having to improve their cloud skills to make the right cloud decisions and manage costs, 5% having to improve their procurement and negotiation skills to manage costs better, and 37% having to multi-task across several new areas.
Despite the negativity surrounding loadshedding, the result of the discussion was optimistic. CIOs and IT leads agreed that Covid-19 had prepared them to deal with business unusual, and that they believed they could work collaboratively with their peers and stakeholders to address new crises as they emerged.
(via ASP Fire)
Loadshedding places increased pressure on transformers at substations
9 May 2023: Constant load-shedding has highlighted the vulnerability of critical electrical such as transformers at substations. This means local authorities must implement specific measures to manage the fire risk, highlights ASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk .
The fact that substations, by their nature, do not have personnel means there is no one to raise an alert in the event of any incident. In addition, a lack of maintenance also means an increased likelihood of such incidents.
“The situation is exacerbated by loadshedding, which results in current inrushes when the power is restored. This can damage components such as ageing electrical insulation, and the potential of transformer fires,” says van Niekerk.
Some substations are in remote areas or in locations difficult to access after normal business hours. This means that installing a standalone fire-detection system is recommended to protect high-risk items such as transformers, which are used to step down the electricity from 33 000 V to 11 000 V or 6 000 V. In addition, a fire-suppression system using foam mist can be highly effective.
“The dangerous combination of loadshedding and a lack of preventative maintenance can result in arc flashes,” warns van Niekerk. These are basically mini lightning bolts that can cause the insulation in substations to start burning. A lack of adequate maintenance of the cooling oil in a transformer can cause hot-spot temperatures that result in bubbles in the oil which, combined with high temperatures, increase internal tank pressure and may result in overflow or tank rupture.
ASP Fire can supply and install fire-suppression systems that are standalone, meaning they do not have to rely on pumps and water-storage tanks in the event of a fire. Water is, instead, stored in nearby pressure vessels, which has the added benefit of minimising the quantity of water needed to suppress a fire.
The major problem remains the lack of adequate maintenance. “We are all aware of the challenges faced by local government in maintaining essential infrastructure. Ageing substations that are not well-maintained to begin with are increasingly vulnerable to load shedding, which is a recipe for disaster,” comments van Niekerk.
While a simple solution is to install adequate fire detection and suppression systems, this is hampered by the lack of necessary funding. Therefore, carrying out preventative maintenance will ensure that substations are robust enough to cope with load shedding, and also allow local authorities to save on capex costs.
While local authorities have to adhere to strict regulations in terms of electrical safety, the installation of fire detection and suppression systems is not mandatory. An exception is the mining industry, which operates its own substations. Here electricity is essential to ensure life-critical equipment such as ventilation shafts and personnel lifts are operational at all times.
“At the end of the day, the knock-on effect on the entire South African economy is huge,” stresses van Niekerk. The cost in replacing a single transformer is prohibitive, meaning local authorities must have a maintenance schedule in place, or have conducted some kind of fire-risk assessment, even if they are not in the financial position to install proper fire detection and suppression systems, he concludes.