Joburg residents who have been experiencing power outages as well as load shedding over the past few weeks, will have to endure more cuts.
City Power has admitted it has had no stock for repairs and that some areas have gone without electricity for up to two weeks.
Besides load shedding, the cuts have resulted from overloading, illegal connections, vandalism of sub-stations and veld fires.
City Power has appealed for patience from customers as it addresses backlogs.
“We have several areas across the city that have gone for weeks. This is partly due to the lack of material and stock in our stores which delays the turnaround time to do the repairs,” said City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena.
“We had no material – that includes spare pole-mounted transformers, mini-substations, fuses, among others. Overloading on the network has seen most of these blow up. We also had problems with finding suppliers for these materials due to the Covid-19 challenges,” he said.
The utility started receiving most of the materials last week and repairs are continuing.
“While we try our best as City Power to attend to the outage backlogs, we appeal to residents to bear with us and be patient as we work to deal with the increase in demand and backlogs. We also appeal to them to co-operate with our teams when they do their jobs in their areas,” he said.
City Power would not hesitate to pull out teams if it believed its staff were not safe, something which would prolong the outages, he added.
City Power has also warned against man-made veld fires near its infrastructure and under power servitudes.
The DA said the situation could be improved if the Department of Energy would allow the city to buy electricity directly from independent power producers (IPP) to lessen its dependence on Eskom.
Councillor Nico de Jager said: “This will also allow City Power’s business model to change from only acting as a distributor for Eskom to acting as a distributor for several IPPs.
“In doing so, City Power’s revenue will increase due to the ‘wheeling tariff’ that IPPs will pay to use the city’s electrical infrastructure. The department’s refusal to do so is a destructive political game,” he said.
Buying electricity from IPPs is not a new phenomenon. In 2001 City Power, Eskom and Kelvin Power Station, an IPP, entered into a contract to allow Kelvin to sell up to 500 megawatts daily to City Power.
Unfortunately, due to the age of Kelvin infrastructure and the uncertainty about the continuation of the contract, Kelvin have not been able to do much-needed upgrades to function optimally and supply the agreed 500MW per day.
When Medupi Power Station came online, Eskom abruptly withdrew from this arrangement. It no longer needed Kelvin’s electricity, or so it thought. City Power was still allowed to supplement the electricity provided by Eskom with what they bought from Kelvin Power Station, De Jager said.
Every stage of load shedding represents 100MW of electricity. In other words, if Eskom implemented stage 1 load shedding, City Power was allowed to offset 100MW from Kelvin.
“The 200MW that City Power buys from Kelvin would therefore exempt City Power from stage 2 and as such (it) would have no impact on Joburg residents. Like a classic monopoly bully, Eskom put an end to this agreement in December 2018. They ordered City Power to adhere to the load shedding schedule, failing which Eskom would simply cut supply,” said De Jager.
In January this year, City Power received the go-ahead to once again offset power from Kelvin. Less than a month later Eskom reneged on the agreement.
“It hardly needs saying that the effects of load shedding are numerous and devastating. Electrical infrastructure is damaged, cables are easily stolen, residents are sitting in the cold and dark; not to mention the disastrous consequences on the economy.
“In a time when hospitals and clinics need to be fully operational 24/7 and PPE suppliers must be producing non-stop, Eskom is preoccupied with strong-arming the competition,” he said.
The solution is simple: allow IPPs to enter the market legally and in doing so offer competitive prices and reliable supply.