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By Moneyweb

Moneyweb: Journalists

Cape Town races ahead to end load shedding, while Joburg fiddles

Wheeling across its grid imminent, procurement of 700MW of power underway.

By the end of this year, Cape Town will have fully implemented the wheeling of power across its grid, contracts for the procurement of 200MW of power from independent power producers will be signed, and a feasibility study for a 60 MWp solar and battery plant outside Somerset West will be complete.

By then, Joburg’s City Power will have triumphantly overhauled its load shedding schedules (it erroneously announced this last month), a system to remotely switch off geysers, may or may not yet be deployed across the metro, and it may just have signed a contract extension for supply from the Kelvin Power Station. It’s been talking about extending this deal since August 2022.

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Cape Town is acquiring power as quickly as it can and creating a free market for power in the metro. Joburg is trying to somehow cut its way out of load shedding (impossible) and somewhat bafflingly cut supply more frequently during load shedding than it currently does. Seemingly, it wants to avoid two back-to-back two-hour slots (four-hour blocks) all the way to stage 8.

The contrast could not be any starker.

Cape Town’s plan is ambitious. Approximately R2.3 billion will be spent over the next three years across multiple streams: procurement from Independent Power Producers (IPPs), demand-side management, maintenance and the operation of its Steenbras pumped storage scheme, buying surplus power from households and businesses, and building city-owned plants and battery storage.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis was clear on its strategy last year: “I think we must be really aggressive about trying to reduce our reliance on Eskom, and to bring additional capacity on-line as quickly as possible.”


The announcement this week that wheeling – which allows generators of power to transmit power to a buyer across grid infrastructure – will start in July and be fully up-and-running by year-end is huge.

This is the first major implementation of wheeling in the country (Eskom has been running a pilot programme with certain IPPs and customers).

A total of 15 suppliers with 25 generators, including Amazon, Redefine Properties, Energy Partners, and other energy aggregators and traders will wheel electricity to 40 customers across municipal and Eskom distribution networks in the metro.

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As a simple, localised example: a shopping mall with excess solar generation at midday can sell this capacity to a customer elsewhere in the metro. The city will then take a slice for wheeling the power across its grid.

Whether City Power has even begun to grapple with the policy, skills, regulatory and billing complexity required before a single electron can be sent across its infrastructure is an open question.

There is a singular reference to the “City Power Wheeling Policy” in its tariff document for next year.

This is the first and only reference to it on the entire world wide web. At least the tariff dimension is being addressed (these are – rather predictably – not finalised).

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Beyond wheeling, Cape Town is in the process of procuring 700MW of electricity from IPPs.

It’s also building its own R1.2 billion solar PV plant outside Somerset West, with support from the C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF). This 60MWp plant – which will shield the metro from one stage of load shedding – should be commissioned in the second half of 2026. Plans will be finalised by December.

Joburg published a request for proposal for alternative energy sources (on contracts of up to 36 months) in November, but in the latest plans announced by the council to alleviate load shedding, this is not mentioned at all.

ALSO READ: Service shedding: ‘If City Power denies residents electricity, they will be creating a powder keg’

Kelvin Power Station

The decommissioning of Kelvin Power Station in 2026 looms large.

The privately-operated plant supplies 13% of the metro’s power, with negotiations to extend the contract (which ends in December) ongoing, as they have been for 10 months now.

Even if Joburg launches a large-scale private power procurement programme this year, it would take at least another year to finalise this. Add three years for the construction and commissioning of plants and you’re at the end of 2027 … if you’re lucky.

That the city is literally surrounded by land – old mine dumps – that cannot be used for residential purposes but offer perfect location for large PV plants is a grand irony.

Finally, Cape Town’s Power Heroes programme, where it will spend R288 million on incentivising users to reduce power, will award management contracts soon.

Aggregators will install smart devices in the homes and businesses of customers who elect to sign up for the programme and will manage the incentives. So, your geyser or pool pump will be switched off when necessary (in peak times) in exchange for an incentive.


Joburg is pursuing a heavy-handed approach with its rollout of remote geyser management. Signals will also be sent across the network to warn customers to reduce consumption. If they don’t, supply to the household will automatically be cut entirely until the load is reduced.

Eskom has started implementing its residential load management project in Midrand and Sandton, areas it supplies directly.

One can be sure that this will be complete long before City Power manages to even roll out its management programme to a single city region.

Joburg cannot event get the basics right

Joburg cannot even get the basics right. Municipal offices don’t have proper backup power systems. Less than half its network is able to be remotely managed (using Scada – supervisory control and data acquisition), meaning implementing load shedding is an incredibly labour-intensive process. Try this with a schedule where cuts are more frequent, but shorter. What’s that saying about Nero fiddling?

The enormous lead that Cape Town has over the other metros with plans to mitigate and end load shedding is only growing.

At this point, it’s at least 24 months ahead of the next metro (this is being generous). And because of the pace its moving (thanks to the momentum inherent in a stable, professional civil service) by the end of this year, it’s going to be 36 months ahead.

This article originally appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission.
Read the original article here.