An absolute treat for us Chez 6000 today, as we might be lucky enough to go the whole day without a power cut. But that’s more down to luck than anything else. The country is on Stage 3, which would generally mean about six hours off for most people. But in Cape Town, they’ve managed (for the moment) to reduce that to Stage 1:
The 180-megawatt Steenbras Hydro Pump Station (SHPS) consists of four turbines that are used to generate electricity. During peak electricity demand, it channels water from Upper Steenbras to Lower Steenbras, through the turbine generator, to create electricity.
When electricity usage is low, usually between 11pm and 7am, the turbines pump the water back to the Upper Steenbras Dam to be re-used the next day. In this way, SHPS operates like a battery. The amount of electricity that it can generate in one day is limited by the capacity of the lower reservoir.
Thus about two-thirds of the water used to generate power during the day is pumped back at night to the upper Steenbras reservoir to create more space for continual utilisation of the power station.
It’s more like charging the cellphone battery at night for usage during the following day. Cape Town is the only city in South Africa to own and operate a large pumped hydroelectric scheme.
And then, thanks to the way that the timetable works, we have been fortunate enough to not be scheduled for any cuts in Stage 1 today.
And there are rumours that Eskom has been saving up emergency reserve capacity over the past few day in order to give us relief from loadshedding for tomorrow as well:
Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer says that Eskom will do its best to keep the lights on for Christmas but warned that things could change very quickly.
“It is our intention not to have load shedding on Christmas Day; however, we are monitoring the situation,” he said.
The current outlook, barring any challenges over the next day or so, is that emergency reserves will have to be used to keep load shedding at bay. The intention is to keep load shedding suspended for at least ‘large parts’ of Christmas, he said.
Two days without blackouts. Aren’t we fortunate?
Look, I’ve taken the outrageously bold step of resetting all the clocks in the house. There’s no point in doing that usually, because they will all need resetting 4 hours later. But with (possibly) two days off, I’m going to indulge myself and be able to glance at the oven, bedroom clock or the microwave and get an accurate assessment of the time, rather than the usual 88:88.
I’m happy that we’re loadshedding free for these couple of days. It does help. But I’m also mindful that we need to avoid normalising this situation, or even celebrating it in some kind of weird Stockholm Syndrome way. We shouldn’t have to be hoping to have electricity. It should be there.
But this situation isn’t going to change any time soon:
At least, not for the better…