City Power’s ‘special power for Joburg deal’ has first load shedding failure

The city says it has lost a line that allows it to source power from Kelvin Power Station, while repairs are now awaited.

Last week, City Power announced that it had struck a deal with Kelvin Power Station to mitigate the effects of load shedding, claiming that Joburgers would be unaffected by Eskom power cuts up to stage 2.

However, many residents were left scratching their heads on Monday at noon, when the power went out anyway.

It took another two hours before City Power released a statement explaining that they would “start” load shedding at 12 noon.

Last week and over the weekend, City Power managed to avoid stage 2 load shedding, still taking to Twitter on Monday to confidently reassure customers their lights would remain on.

This was because, according to the utility, City Power had extra capacity of 200MW from the Kelvin station. City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said last week the utility’s customers would likely enjoy this cushioning for the foreseeable future.

This, however, hasn’t lasted long.

“The extra capacity has comes from various sources which include ripple relays, load limiting through smart meters, and Kelvin Power Station,” he said last week in a statement.

“It is for this reason that City Power was able to cushion our customers against stage 2 load shedding. Ripple relays technology is installed in certain areas around our areas of supply, allowing us to remotely switch off high power users like geysers to help save electricity. The same applies to load limiting. City Power customers should not panic, and we will update them when this situation changes.”

DA highly suspicious

While residents celebrated the reprieve from the latest bout of rolling blackouts, former MMC for environmental affairs Nico de Jager smelled a rat.

According to De Jager and former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, this had never been an option for the Democratic Alliance-run administration.

De Jager said while it was welcomed that the city could use Kelvin Power Station’s 200MW per day to avoid load shedding, government had yet to explain why this was an option now and not in previous bouts of load shedding.

He said whereas previous administrations were able to use this capacity to avoid load shedding, from December 2018, Mashaba’s administration was told this would no longer be allowed.

“All along, until 9 December 2018, whenever they had load shedding, they were able to offset it, but were expected to load-shed against what we buy in.

“Remember how load shedding works. Stage 1 is 100MW and we did that. Suddenly from December 2018, we received a letter from Eskom saying we were no longer allowed to offset. We have written to Eskom and the [energy] department asking for them to explain.”

Mashaba confirmed that at no point during his term did the city have the option of using Kelvin’s capacity to offset load shedding.

De Jager said this week’s events indicated the possibility that political sabotage was at play.

“Now that government has changed, suddenly they are not expected to load shed. To play political football with the city’s infrastructure is absolutely criminal and, in fact, it is treason of the worst kind.”

(Background reporting, Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni)

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