Cape Town - South Africans are fully justified in their anger over constant power cuts and are understandably eager to see an end to load shedding which impacts every household and business.
We all yearn for a return to normality and an end to the endless cycle of load shedding.
This is understandable, considering that load shedding inconveniences and affects everyone, at every level of society.
Ensuring a speedy end to load shedding remains at the absolute top of the government's priorities, and as part of a holistic response to expedite the implementation of the Energy Action Plan launched last year.
President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as Minister in the Presidency for Electricity.
His primary responsibility is to reduce the severity and frequency of load shedding, which poses a serious threat to our economy and the well-being of the country.
Since his appointment in March, the minister has in a short space of time, visited 14 power stations to get first-hand insight of the challenges facing Eskom.
During these visits, the minister engaged with management, workers and unions as well as stressed the need for collaboration in resolving the electricity crisis.
The minister is also working with the Department of Public Enterprises and Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in the implementation of the Energy Action Plan to address the energy challenges.
The plan provides a clear path to reduce the severity and frequency of load shedding in the short term and achieve energy security in the long term. It includes critical maintenance, which is already under way to improve the performance of our existing coal fired power stations.
As part of the plan, we have also given priority to demand side management initiatives such as consumer behaviour, rooftop solar and facilitating embedded generation.
Furthermore, we have made significant progress in implementing reforms to allow private investment in electricity generation and accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity from solar, wind, gas and battery storage.
These reforms have enabled a number of municipalities to put plans in place to procure power independently.
Together with measures to streamline regulatory processes, they have led to an increase in new projects representing over 10 000MW of new capacity.
In addition, we have through our renewable energy programme signed agreements for approximately 2 800MW from bid windows 5 and 6, with several of these large projects already in construction and others on track to be finalised.
The government also recently released a request for proposals for over 500MW of battery storage, and will soon open further bid windows for wind and solar, battery storage and gas power.
These interventions are critical to stabilise the grid, however there is no quick fix to the electricity shortfall, and load shedding will be with us for a while longer.
The strain on energy resources is however not only limited to South Africa, many countries around the world are experiencing power constraints.
It is unfortunate that some have misinterpreted the current stages of load shedding as “blackouts”, while others use these two words interchangeably.
Load shedding is a controlled rotation of power, which is implemented to prevent a national “blackout”.
Load shedding happens when the demand for electricity exceeds available supply.
Our ageing coal fired power plants often trip and when multiple-generation units fail load shedding is implemented.
This is done as a means to manage the demand by reducing it to a level that can be handled by the system.
This is done by rotating the available electricity between a certain number of households.
By managing supply and demand the highly skilled grid or systems management team at Eskom can rotate power and protect the power grid from unexpected outages.
The process of load shedding enables Eskom to undertake necessary repairs or to execute its recovery plan, and also gives citizens a level of certainty to plan their daily routine.
Load shedding schedules are drawn up in advance and they are available on Eskom or municipality websites.
While load shedding is far from ideal, it is the only way we can keep the lights on and ensure that the economy and households continue to function. We know that this is of little comfort to people as they struggle to go about their daily lives while dealing with constant power outages.
Load shedding is only ever implemented as a measure of last resort and it has ensured that our grid remains functional and well managed, without any fear of a total collapse.
As we work together to overcome the energy crisis, we call on all South Africans to play their part in ensuring that our electricity system remains stable.
You can do this by reducing your usage of electricity, especially during critical periods of constrained energy supply and by reporting illegal connections.
While load shedding will be with us for the immediate future, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our initiatives to increase generation capacity are beginning to come on stream and will lessen the severity of load shedding in time.
Until then we can all make a difference by switching off appliances when not in use, and using the energy we have sparingly.
Currin is SA Government spokesperson and GCIS director-general.