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Eskom exempts critical irrigation area in Free State from load shedding

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In the past years the higher instances of load shedding have affected food production negatively. Typically, irrigation farmers have been affected in that they were not able to water crops during critical stages. For example, with the recent heatwave conditions, irrigation remains critical to stave off potential risks associated with food security.

A delegation from FSA met directors from the ESKOM CentralEast Cluster on Friday 23 February 2024 where various issues around service delivery, load shedding and smart metering were discussed.

According to Kempen Nel, irrigation farmer serving on the Commercial Committee of Free State Agriculture, the ad hoc ESKOM Load shedding Committee of the CentralEast Cluster (Free State and KZN) have given exemption of load shedding to certain critical irrigation lines to make up for long periods when the lines were down due to emergency repairs. The decision to grant load shedding exemption into the future in the form of load reduction depends on the ability to lower energy consumption of networks.

Lowered energy consumption networks are areas or lines that can achieve an overall reduction of electricity consumption for a certain period of time. Typically, it requires communities to switch off non-essential appliances. Once a reduction is achieved, it provides Eskom the ability to exempt that area/line from load shedding. Community cooperation and smart metering devices play a crucial management role in this process.

“Clarens in the Eastern Free State has been load shedding free for 6 months now since trialling this technology with smart meters.  This test case provides a positive solution to the irrigation challenges and can now be implemented elsewhere”.  

It is important to understand that this exemption is a strategic issue aimed at protecting food security for the country. “As farmers we are subject to the laws of nature and the irrigation needs of crops do not follow the load shedding schedules. Agriculture is therefore heavily reliant on electricity supply during critical phases of the crop season, specifically for irrigation purposes.

This exemption should not be seen a special treatment since the exempted areas or lines remain subject to overall electricity usage limits. What is different though is that communities are now able to indirectly “manage” their own consumption based on their economic production needs.  The good news is that there are solutions to stem load shedding, all be it mainly for rural towns and groups of farmers working together. This bodes well to stem the tide of infrastructure theft and vandalism as with the power on the systems are live (including security systems) making them far more difficult to tamper with. 

The success of these projects lies in a champion taking the lead and getting people to work together at local level! Community organization leaders (including Farmers Associations) interested in implementing load reduction can contact Eugene Myburgh, Customer Relations Manager at ESKOM on or 072 610 2797.