Overcoming the 5-Stages of Loadshedding Grief


Over the past 16 years, South Africa’s citizens have had to contend with a great deal of loss and uncertainty as a consequence of load shedding. We have all lost something. The biggest loss of all has been the confidence that we are in control of our lives and our businesses.

Not even three-quarters of the way through 2023 and South Africa has already experienced more power outages than it did during the whole of 2022, with regular Stage 6 outages being a common feature.

One could say we have gone through the five stages of grief, which were famously outlined by Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book ‘On Death and Dying’. This includes denial (“it won’t last!”), anger (“I can’t believe it’s off again!”), bargaining (“just a little longer and a small gennie and we’re over it”), depression (“everything is falling apart and there’s no hope”), and I believe we now need to reach the acceptance phase. We need to make a plan, deal with it.

Sixteen years later, businesses and individual homeowners have had no choice but to invest billions of Rands in their own diesel generators, solar PV and battery systems. More billions will be spent, with companies’ pulling investment from manufacturing capacity, facilities, stock, and R&D and pushing this into just keeping the lights on. We’ve all had to face the fact that we, in the private sector, have had to take charge of our own energy destinies.

Following acceptance, we need to move from the Five Stages of Load Shedding Grief to a five-step plan to recover control of our lives – for the sake of our families, and our businesses. I call it the Five Stages of Energy Maturity.

Here is an outline of each stage that needs to be addressed and achieved to ensure energy security for our country’s future:

Stage 1 – Reduce Energy Consumption: Reduce waste and inefficiencies, while also cutting unnecessary costs by turning off loads when possible and shifting loads to when they put the least strain on supply.

Stage 2 – Optimise Generation: Use what you have more effectively. Run loads during the day to use up solar capacity and run generation sets at optimal load level to reduce diesel consumption and maintenance costs.

Stage 3 – Automate Demand-side Management: Shed what you need to and when you want to shed it. But don’t rely on individuals to do it, automate your load control. Reduce large loads, but also cut down on the large number of small loads that all add up.

Stage 4- Curtail Demand: Use power where and when it makes sense to do so and set hard limits on power and energy. Hard limits on power (kilowatts) means making sure that not too much load comes on at the same time. Hard limits on energy entails budgeting your kilowatt hours and sticking to it. Energy is now a finite resource to be used wisely.

Stage 5 – Plan Around Energy Independence: True acceptance. If there is Stage 8 or even a grid collapse, there could be little or no utility power for days or weeks. Can your business still run? What do your essential systems need and can you supply them? Do you have enough solar to top up batteries? Do you have enough diesel stored?

In every one of these stages, it comes down to knowing in great detail what you’re using power for, when and why. This requires granular, per-minute metering at multiple points in the electrical distribution network within a building.

More importantly, it means implementing a robust, but simple, electrical load management system, where you can turn things on and off at the click of a button. Or, better yet, set up some automated rules and let the computers click the button.

We have lost some things that we didn’t know were so core to our lives – our comfort and sense of being in control. But the very survival of our economy and the jobs it creates is at risk. We’ve navigated the stages of grief.

Now we must make a plan, sort it out, and carry on as a country. We’ve faced adversity before and overcome. We can do it again, Hislop concludes.

By Roger Hislop, Energy Management Systems Executive at CBI

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Get notified of the best deals on our WordPress themes.

You May Also Like