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By Chulumanco Mahamba

Digital Night Supervisor

Eskom battles overloading and theft, 400 transformers replaced

Since January, Eskom replaced 400 transformers damaged by network overloading from electricity theft. Winter demand worsens the situation.

Eskom has replaced 400 transformers across South Africa that were damaged by network overloading since January.

With winter arriving and temperatures dropping, there has been increased demand for electricity, which has led to a resurgence of network overloading in certain places because of electricity theft.

According to the power utility, there are several types of electricity theft, including illegal connections, network equipment theft, vandalism, meter bypasses and tampering, unauthorised network operations, and purchasing electricity from illegal vendors.

“Overloaded transformers as a result of electricity theft present a serious risk to human life. The time, funds, and manpower used to replace these transformers could have been utilised to improve the reliability of our network, electrify more communities, improve the experience of our paying customers, and create more jobs,” said Agnes Mlambo, the acting group executive for Eskom distribution.

Overloaded transformers a serious risk

“A transformer damaged by overloading can leave an area without power for up to six months; protecting Eskom’s assets is in the best interest of all South Africans.”

ALSO READ: New tariff structure may raise costs for some Eskom users

Eskom said around 2 500 transformers are at risk of failure due to regular overloading nationwide; less than 1 000 transformers are isolated and waiting to be replaced.

Eskom has started a campaign called “Save Your Transformers, Save Lives” to prevent load reduction and sudden supply disruption. Customers are urged to lower their consumption, make sure their electricity is connected and paid for legally, buy from authorised vendors, and report any illegal activity.

While load shedding is used when there is an insufficient supply of electricity, load reduction is a well-established procedure that Eskom performs in some locations when there is enough electricity available but a transformer is in danger of overloading.

Load reduction

The City of Johannesburg’s power utility, City Power, started implementing load reduction on Monday during peak times from 6 to 10 am and 4 to 10 pm in high-density areas and suburbs with concerning usage levels that threaten to overload the electricity equipment.

“The decision to initiate load reduction follows extensive efforts to encourage customers to use electricity wisely and efficiently in recent weeks. Despite warnings about the constrained electricity network in the city, residents have not reduced their electricity consumption, and energy demand has continued to rise,” City Power said on Saturday in a statement.

ALSO READ: City Power says load reduction is ‘vital’

Eskom has emphasised that load reduction is not load shedding.

“Load reduction is a proactive measure that Eskom uses to protect human life and equipment worth millions of rands, particularly mini substations, transformers, and people’s livelihoods,” it said.

Customers have been urged to report criminal activities such as illegal connections, theft, and vandalism that can damage transformers, mini-substations, and other electricity infrastructure to the Eskom Crime Line on 0800 112 722.

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