Load Sharing

South Africa. Earlier this year the South African government declared a national energy crisis in response to Eskom’s inability to meet the country’s energy requirements. The lights came back on, but the need for an energy conservation scheme was abundantly clear, leading to the energy giant’s euphemistically coined “load shedding” programme.

However, while load shedding is at best inconvenient in the home, it can be detrimental to industry.

Eskom, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) have thus developed an energy conservation scheme (ECS) designed to safe-guard industry from the risk of more power outages.

One of the most important facets of the ECS will be the tabling of regulations governing energy conservation, particularly within industries. Ultimately, these regulations will give shape to a national risk management programme, for while industry is by far the greatest user of electricity within the country and thus the key target for more effective energy conservation schemes, it is also the backbone of South Africa’s economy and highly dependant on an abundant supply of cheap energy.

An Energy Hungry Country

South Africa’s energy crisis has been a decade in the making, with the country’s reserve margins steadily declining from 27.1% in 1999 to a mere 5% in 2007 while demand continued to increase.

If nothing is done about the situation and assuming a growth of electricity usage of 4% per annum, the reserve margin will drop below zero by 2011. What the country experienced in early 2008 would become the tip of the potential energy crisis facing South Africa.

According to Eskom’s calculations and based on international benchmarks in terms of load factors versus reserve margins, a 10% saving in power usage must be achieved within the next 4 – 6 years to allow Eskom space for appropriate generation maintenance and to connect new customers.

However, the challenge lies not only in reducing electricity usage, but doing so while minimising the economic impact that this will have on industrial stakeholders.

Unfortunately, those same industries that are so reliant on energy are also the key consumers of energy. In fact, a whopping 75% of South Africa’s annual electricity output is consumed by its 60 000 largest industrial consumers, the backbone of the country.

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