Free State arts town now manages its own electricity load

Eskom has announced that the Free State town of Clarens, in the eastern part of the province, has become South Africa's first town where residents are now equipped to manage their own electricity load through load curtailment. Eskom Free State Senior Manager for Retail, Bibi Bedir, explained that although many municipalities and large customers have been engaging in load curtailment, 'group curtailment - where a community manages its own load curtailment - was however piloted in Clarens'. 'Group curtailment requires the collaborative efforts of the entire community to reduce load when requested. Once a system emergency is declared, Eskom gives a nominated group coordinator two hours' notice of load curtailment that should be sustained throughout load shedding. The group coordinator directs the community who decides which equipment will be switched off to achieve the required demand reduction. 'For the residents of a tiny town that depends on an economic inflow from tourists visiting their small businesses mostly over weekends and holidays, power interruptions due to load shedding required a solution that would allow the town's economy to thrive while still contributing to a reduction in electricity demand when the national grid is under strain,' Bedir said. The town's nominated group coordinator, Gert Kruger, described the move as 'life changing' for businesses in the town. In Clarens, curtailment compliance is managed through an application that was developed by a company managed by Kruger, which signals to customers that load curtailment has been called. 'For a town that depends on tourism, not being subjected to load shedding is life changing. Although the success depends on the voluntary participation of residents and businesses, we have the community's support as everyone benefits from cooperating. 'Feedback from visitors, restaurants and accommodation establishments is very positive and without the noise of generators, tourists can enjoy Clarens' natural beauty,' Kruger said. Monitoring compliance Eskom explained that during curtailment Stages 1 to 4, customers are asked to reduce electricity demand by some 10 to 20%. 'Unlike load shedding where the customers are switched off as per their schedule, load curtailment must be sustained. Eskom continuously monitors the reduction in demand of its curtailment customers, as three instances of non-compliance will result in the reinstatement of normal load shedding,' the power utility said. In Clarens, curtailment compliance is managed through an application that was developed by a company managed by Kruger, which signals to customers that load curtailment has been called. '[This] acts as a trigger for residents to set their load reduction plans in motion. A meter was installed at the town's main point of supply. Every 60 seconds, the meter sends real-time statistics of the town's current demand, prompting further reduction if required. 'So far, the project is successful with residents being able to sufficiently reduce and manage their load, making the Clar ens project a benchmark for similar projects to be rolled out in other areas of the country. 'As Clarens is already gearing up for smart city initiatives with smart metering and electrical vehicle charging stations already installed, as well as a well-diverse spread of small-scale embedded generators (SSEGs), Eskom was eager to help Clarens' residents in the evolution from an art town to a smart town,' the power utility said. Source: South African Government News Agency