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By Zanele Mbengo

Journalist


City Power says load reduction is ‘vital’

Alexandra residents protest prolonged power outages as City Power implements load reduction strategies to protect the grid.


Residents of Alexandra, grappling with prolonged power outages, barricaded roads yesterday with burning tyres and rocks to show their frustrations.

This follows over two months of uninterrupted power supply nationwide, but City Power is now implementing load reduction strategies in densely populated areas to ease pressure on the grid.

ALSO READ: City Power collects R20m in past week but still owed R3.5bn as load reduction bites

City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said load reduction followed extensive efforts to encourage customers to use electricity efficiently in recent weeks.

“Despite warnings about the constrained electricity network, residents have not reduced their electricity consumption,” he said.

Reaching critical levels

Mangena said electricity consumption had reached critical levels, forcing City Power to embark on stringent measures to protect the grid from total collapse.

“These measures include the intensifying of the implementation of systems to basically ensure that we cut off electricity for geysers where the system is under threat,” he said.

Thabo Mopasi, from Alexandra Peace Ambassador, said it was the government’s responsibility to protect a grid collapse.

“But residents are concerned about meeting their basic needs. Some have no money to buy candles, paraffin, gas or petrol for their generators as a source of power,” Mopasi said.

He said the “population in Alexandra is one of the factors and it’s corruption on tenders and government’s failure to adhere to Integrated Development Plans”.

Energy expert Clyde Mallinson said load reduction wasn’t directly related to a shortage of electricity, but rather to the infrastructure’s ability to safely distribute power to meet demand.

He said load reduction was a necessary response to prevent grid strain and the risks of overloading smaller transformers, leading to overheating and potential outages.

ALSO READ: City Power implements power cuts in Joburg

“Just like how traffic congestion occurs when roads can’t handle the volume of vehicles, transformers can overload when they’re tasked with supplying more households than they were designed for,” he said.

“Each step in the distribution process, from high-voltage transmission lines to individual households, must be carefully designed to handle specific loads.

“When households exceed their designated capacity, transformers can overheat and fail, leading to outages.”

Another energy expert, Lungile Mashile, said Alexandra received its electricity and other services from the City of Joburg. “Its residents pay more for electricity per kilowatt-hour than their Sandton neighbours.

Given the cross-subsidised nature of electricity, it broadly means the residents of Alexandra are subsidising those in Sandton,” Mashile said.

The public bears the brunt of it

“This means hundreds of thousands of people need to share dilapidated and unmaintained infrastructure. The community continues to bear the brunt of poor planning and a lack of service delivery.”

She added City Power is implementing load reduction to prevent their system from total collapse.

“It will help their consumers from experiencing lengthy outages due to trips, fires and transformer blowouts,” Mashile said.

Mallinson suggested potential solutions such as providing batteries to households for temporary power during peak demand.

“However, implementing such solutions faces challenges, including municipal budget constraints and service delivery issues,” he said.

ALSO READ: Cause of fire probed in Tshwane switch gear room

“Ultimately, the issues with the power grid and service delivery symbolise deeper sociopolitical-economic challenges. South Africa needs a comprehensive transformation to address these underlying issues.”

Mangena said they are decreasing loads in threatened substations and intensifying efforts to disconnect illegal connections in informal settlements.

“Those who are illegally connected or tamper with meters, are among the highest consumers of electricity, because they do not experience the financial consequences of keeping high and irresponsible usage,” he said.

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