Load Shedding Schedules

South Africa has a very serious shortage of electricity.

In fact, it is so serious at the moment that we have dramatically reduced (halted?) our electricity exports to our neighbouring countries, with whom we have long-term contracts. Family in Namibia, for instance, tell us that they now have fairly regular ‘load shedding’ every day – from 17h00 to 18h00 in Walvis Bay, 18h00 to 19h00 in Swakop, and 19h00 to 20h00 in Windhoek. That’s according to the NamPower website.

And the gold and platinum mines (among others) in South Africa have been told to reduce their power usage to the barest minimum, or face being cut off…. Can you imagine thousands of workers stuck down in those tunnels many kilometres under the earth’s surface, when the power goes off? As a result, many of the mines in fact shut down last week, which has huge financial implications for the SA economy.

After a month of chaos (most of January), Eskom and the local municipalities in the Cape finally worked out a new schedule (I don’t think they always stick to it, but they’re supposed to). The old schedule was completely incomprehensible, because it was divided into various stages – Brown 1, Brown 2, Orange, Red, etc. (Brown means not too serious, but there will be some load shedding, whereas Red means very serious, so there will be long hours without power). This meant, however, that we had to know in which stage we were, in order to look up the time in which our neighbourhood was likely to be shut down. This was clearly impractical.

The new schedule covers the period from 21 January to 31 March 2008, and is available here via the City of Cape Town’s website.

According to this, Pinelands is scheduled for 10:00 to 12:30 and 18:00 to 20:30, and Tamboerskloof for 12:00 to 14:30 and 20:00 to 22:30. But the explanatory notes on the schedule are still thoroughly confusing:

“Suburbs listed here are per the normal road directory (Map-studio). Time 1 is the first 2hr 30 min time period during which the suburb may potentially be shed. Time 2 is the second 2hr 30 min time period during which the suburb may potentially be shed. There will be rotation of shedding taking place within load blocks. A load block is all the suburbs advertised for possible shedding during the same time periods. If, for example, a particular suburb was not shed during one of its advertised periods while shedding is taking place, it is more likely to be shed during the other period of the day but may still not be shed depending on the severity of load shedding and prevailing demand for electricity at the time. Load blocks are determined by the electricity network and the area supplied by certain substations. A load block may cut through some suburbs creating suburb parts such as (N), (S), (E) and (W). There are three maps available on the “Capetown.gov.za” site, showing the same information geographically for areas North, South and East. These maps show suburb outlines with suburb names. However, not all suburbs are named due to space limitations. An important feature is the shaded areas depicting the load blocks of same time periods. These Maps will assist in determining which suburb part the customer stays in for border line cases. Unfortunately the borders are only educated estimates, because the Low Voltage network detail was not taken into consideration.”

Now if you can wade through that without your eyes glazing over and your brain making a sizzling sound, you should probably be in government.

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