Load shedding is the term South Africa uses to describe rolling black outs. Electricity is supplied by a state-owned company called Eskom. Unfortunately, years of mismanagement means there are serious problems. Facilities have been poorly maintained, supply contracts have gone to people who can’t meet their obligations and the recently built power plants have serious design flaws. Oh and the company is currently operating at a big loss.
There was a round of load-shedding in late 2014 and went into 2015. In Cape Town things were reasonably organised and the schedules kept regarding when power would be off. Companies developed load-shedding apps. China must have made a lot of money selling generators to South Africa. Then load shedding stopped. I was out of the country at the time but it seems that it was a ploy to justify increased electricity prices.
Then in December last year there was another round of load shedding. There was talk of power cuts through the holidays including Christmas Day. The President stepped in and told Eskom to stop load shedding. It seemed like another ploy to increase electricity prices. Until Sunday when we heard that the power was off in our area, while we were out, and realised that load shedding had resumed.
In Cape Town the power cuts are scheduled in 2.5 h blocks. The least serious level of power cuts is Stage 1 with each area only experiencing 1 power cut per day. On Sunday they implemented Stage 2. On Monday they went to Stage 4. It seems that they had lost 6 generating units during the course of the day, at this level it means that 20% of the population are without power. I experienced a power cut in the afternoon while I was at work. There was a brief delay during the swap over from the main grid to the generator and then back again. Other than that life continued although we did have to turn the air conditioning off.
We were scheduled for another power cut from 8 – 10:30 pm, pretty much the time it went dark. I’m sure I don’t need to explain some of the stresses of dealing with a power cut once it goes dark. There was a rush to get things done before the power went off. Fortunately, we have a good collection of lights so we made sure these were easy to find. Just before 8 pm we went round the house unplugging everything to avoid a surge when the power came back on.
I thought I would try my luck downloading a game I could play offline, while we waited, then realised I had turned the wifi off. Doh. So we sat and waited for the power to go off. By 8:20 I was starting to hope it wouldn’t go off. At 8:30 I decided that we had managed to avoid this round of load shedding and turned the plugs and wifi back on. At 9:00 the power went off. So I turned the plugs back off. Then I settled on the couch to write this post with a few battery powered lights. At 9:45 the power came back on.
With load shedding planned till April it seems we will need to get used to rolling black outs. So I decided that blogging about it would help me stay sane.