Load Shedding and Ongoing High Electricity Usage – The Reasons

By Dirk Groenewald – Executive MidCity Utilities

South Africans have endured the longest and highest levels of load shedding since we became aware of “load shedding” in January 2008.

What most notably started as an anomaly, given the great success and recognition Eskom previously received as the best electricity producing entity for many a year, has turned into an absolute nightmare (blackout and darkness) for all South Africans.

Economic growth is directly related to efficient, effective, reliable, and affordable electricity supply.

There are many factors, discussions and conspiracy theories as to why South Africans are currently experiencing and will possibly experience load shedding for the foreseeable future.

What we (and even more so, households) have experienced, is that even with regular load shedding, our electricity consumption and accounts have not reduced considerably.

This surely does not make sense.

What is the reason, what is the story?

When there is constant electrical supply, our geysers, fridges and freezers do not have to work so hard.

The equipment only starts up to heat, cool or freeze when necessary, and mainly to keep the temperature at the set point as per our requirements (thermostat).


When we use a lot of hot water, with cold water flowing into the geyser as we use the hot water, the geyser will work hard to warm up the colder water to the set temperature. This we can understand.

However, during load shedding and more so, extended periods of load shedding, the water temperature in our geysers drops considerably since there was no regulation of the water temperature.

After load shedding, the geyser and thermostat have to work hard to reheat the water to the pre-set temperature and that requires a large amount of energy/electricity. Normally we would only see a slight increase in electrical consumption to regulate the temperature.

If geyser and pipework is properly insulated, it can assist with limiting heat loss as well.

On average, a solely electrical geyser constitutes approximately thirty five percent of our monthly electrical account.

Fridges and freezers:

With a stable and constant electrical supply, our fridges and freezers only have to regulate the temperature and start up when needed.

When we put our weekly or monthly groceries in fridges and freezers, they have to work hard to chill the products to the set temperature – this often goes hand in hand with comments and instructions to our children to keep the doors of the fridges and freezers closed/shut!

During extended periods of load shedding, the temperature in fridges and freezers increases considerably, even more so when doors are opened often or for extended periods.

Once load shedding has ended, your fridge and freezer must work hard to reach the pre-set temperature, which requires a large amount of energy/electricity.

To reduce or limit the electrical consumption of fridges and freezers and to prevent the cold from escaping and letting warm air in, ensure that the appliances’ doors seal tight and securely.

Keeping a few frozen ice packs/bricks in your fridge/freezer will assist in maintaining internal temperature for some time.

On average, the electricity required for our stoves, washing machines, fridges and freezers constitute roughly seventeen percent of our monthly electrical account.

Electrical spikes and “demand charges”

Most households are only billed on their monthly electrical consumption, measured in kilowatt hours.

However, there are some clients that have larger electrical connections requiring three phase connections.

These clients are often worse off than the normal household clients for the following reasons:

  • When power is restored after load shedding and all appliances are still connected, the appliances start up simultaneously, using a lot of energy and causing a “spike” in usage and demand.
  • Clients who are on a tariff structure that includes the “demand” usage, will be billed on the highest demand usage in a calendar month.
  • Meaning, just one spike above the normal monthly usage (without load shedding), will cause the client an increase in cost for the “demand” charges.

To avoid these spikes and increases, timers can be installed with a programmed delay in the startup of appliances and equipment.

It would be best to contact a reputable electrical service provider to investigate, advise and install a timer (with a certificate of warranty) to optimise the efficiency, load and demand.


How can I purchase pre-paid electricity?

By making use of one of the following:

  • MidCity Utilities App
  • MidCity Utilities Website
  • Internet Banking
  • Unipin vouchers
Where can I buy a Unipin voucher?
  • Unipin vouchers can be purchased at registered retailers, garages and other suppliers.
How do I load a Unipin voucher?
  • When providing your pre-paid meter number to the cashier, the pre-paid purchase will transfer over to the meter automatically.
  • If you do not provide your meter number to the cashier and you receive the voucher slip, you must follow the steps as set out thereon.
  • Make sure you are using the correct meter number.
Where do I get my meter number/meter serial number?
  • After registering with MidCity Utilities for pre-paid electricity, our Customer Care Personnel will SMS you your meter number.
  • When you register for the Mobile App or on our website, you will also be able to see your meter number.
  • Clients who also request to receive monthly statements, even though they are on pre-paid, will be able to see their meter number on their monthly statement.
  • Contact our Customer Care Personnel.
How do I see what my meter balance is?
  • Log in to either our Mobile App or website.
  • SMS the word Balance (space) meter number to 37823. You will receive an SMS with your meter balance and predicted zero balance date.
  • Use your keypad, if you have one.
Will I receive low balance warnings or notifications?
  • Yes. A low balance notification will be sent to the registered cell phone number that is loaded onto our system.
  • The low balance notification will be sent 48 hours before the calculated depletion date.
  • The depletion date received on the low balance notification, Mobile App or website is an estimation and depends on a client’s consumption habits and changes.
How do I know that credit has been loaded?

Mobile App or Website

  • The final step in the process on the Mobile App or website will indicate if the transaction was successful.
  • Transfer of credits to the meter can take approximately 10 minutes after the purchase is completed successfully.
  • On the Mobile App, website or SMS balance enquiry, it can take between 30 minutes to an hour to update the effective current balance after a purchase was made.

Internet Banking

  • Confirmation of transaction is provided by your banking service.
  • You will receive an SMS or email with the value of the token as well as the 20-digit code already loaded on your meter.
  • Purchases through Internet Banking can take approximately 30 minutes to transfer over to the meter.
  • On the Mobile App, website or SMS balance enquiry, it can take between 30 minutes to an hour to update the effective current balance after a purchase was made.

Unipin voucher

  • After following the process reflected on the voucher with your cell phone, you will receive confirmation and notification on your device.
  • Purchases through Unipin vouchers can take approximately 30 minutes to transfer over to the meter.
  • On the Mobile App, website or SMS balance enquiry, it can take between 30 minutes to an hour to update the effective current balance after a purchase was made.
My token is not loading. What do I do?