Solar power to reduce load shedding impact on businesses - the South African plan

Load shedding has become as predictable as the rising sun in South African life. Eskom, the country’s primary electricity provider, has been struggling to meet the country’s electricity demands, resulting in the worst power cuts in two years.However, the government is making strides in defining new incentives for households and businesses to resort to solar power for relief. In the meantime, how can load shedding be dealt with?Find out in this article whether solar power can resolve the load shedding problem in South Africa.
Table of Contents

What is load shedding?​

“Load shedding” refers to a series of planned and controlled rolling blackouts . Usually, it occurs when there is an imbalance between electricity production and demand. The purposeful shutdown of electricity in a part of a power distribution system becomes the last resort practice.

Why is there load shedding in South Africa?​

There are two main reasons for load shedding in South Africa. The first is the lack of installed electricity generation capacity that cannot meet demand. The next problem is that the available energy is far below the demand for electricity, which is why load shedding occurs.

Since 2018, there has been a sharp increase in the number of hours of intermittent blackouts. Parts of the country’s electric grid are turned off in the event of insufficient capacity or to avoid a countrywide blackout. As predicted in a previous article, load shedding will not end anytime soon and will continue for the next five years.

Image: Load Shedding Graph
Source: EskomSePush App

How does load shedding affect businesses in South Africa?​

As of 25 July 2022, the State announced the introduction of various schemes to close the energy gap and reduce load shedding. The lack of installed capacity is the main culprit of the blackouts. Thus, the authorities need to ease solar installation so that more generations can be installed.

The strategy mapped out below will dramatically increase the number of solar installations in front of and behind the meter:

  1. The procurement of new generation capacity
  2. Easing of distributed generation regulations and new legislation
  3. Incentivizing investment in rooftop solar through feed-in tariffs
  4. The fundamental transformation of the electricity sector

1. The procurement of new generation capacity​

Finally, Eskom will be constructing its first solar and battery storage projects at Komati, Majuba, Lethabo, and several other power stations. Click here to find out how solar + battery installation with a controller can be an anti-load shedding solution.

2. Easing of distributed generation regulations and new legislation​

As of June 2021, the licensing requirement for generation projects up to 100 MW has been removed. As a result, President Ramaphosa has announced the cancellation of the requirement for licensing embedded generation in its entirety. This will encourage further private investment in electricity generation and reduce project lead times.

3. Incentivizing investment in rooftop solar through feed-in tariffs​

Households and businesses can now install rooftop solar solutions and connect their energy to the grid, as the government has recognized. To incentivize this project, a “feed-in tariff” will be developed by Eskom for all commercial and residential rooftop solar installations. Thus, those who have installed solar panels in their homes or businesses will be able to sell the surplus power to Eskom.

4. The fundamental transformation of the electricity sector

The National Treasury is finalizing a sustainable solution to Eskom’s R400 billion debt. The government will use climate funding provided through the Just Energy Transition Partnership to invest in the grid and will also repurpose power stations that have reached the end of their lives.

Taking care of your solar installation could be our next challenge

In the meantime, how to cope with load shedding?

1. Build new solar + battery installations​

It goes without saying that building owners will have to deal with load shedding. To combat the effects of the blackouts, auto consumption has become a necessity. Developing solar + diesel installations supported by control solutions like ePowerControl SD is a good first step during load shedding episodes. Indeed, this type of installation requires less fuel and addresses the non-reliability of the grid by producing fast and more reliable energy.

To go further and considering that diesel prices are on the rise, adding a battery to a hybrid system can prove beneficial. It ensures that your building is not impacted when the power is out. Indeed, with a solution like ePowerControl ES, the BESS can act as a grid-forming unit until the grid is available. It helps you maximize the profitability of your solar energy storage system and decrease diesel consumption significantly.

2. Make sure facilities adhere to government regulation

Given the government’s intervention, state powers will need to regulate solar production. The massive installation of rooftop solar will lead to grid instability and it will be a necessity to comply with city codes as in Cape Town with the DNP3 protocol.

The DNP3 system is Cape Town’s primary communication protocol. DPN3 allows the Network Control Center to monitor and send commands about PV curtailment when grid congestion occurs. Monitoring and control solutions can help you integrate your installation with local grid requirements. Elum’s ePowerControl DNP3 add-on lets the PV inverters receive and implement orders directly from the COCT SCADA municipality, in order to ensure compliance of the power plant.

Are there existing solar projects in South Africa?

In the example below, you can find one of our projects in South Africa with the use of a controller for a solar-diesel integration. Due to load shedding, many C&I buildings have installed site backup generators. To avoid losing solar production during load shedding episodes ePowerControl SD has been added. It provides safe and autonomous solar integration with 1 genset.
Learn more about Elum’s use case in South Africa:
Solar, battery, diesel integration of a tools manufacturer in South Africa
1.2 MWp
Solar, Battery, Diesel integration of a tools manufacturing site in South Africa
ePowerControl MC optimizes energy usage and ensures manufacturing continuity during load shedding, saving costs and maintaining productivity.
Solar diesel integration of 5 Star Superspar Mall in South Africa 2
360 kWp
Solar diesel integration of 5 Star Superspar mall in South Africa
ePowerControl SD project ensures stable power for a South African mall during load shedding.
Khanya Gubangxa Content specialist at Elum Energy
Content specialist at Elum Energy

Khanya joined Elum energy in  2022. She has been reporting on solar and renewable energy since then.

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