7th December 2023 9:58 am
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How Stage 6 is crippling Gauteng’s power infrastructure

  • Electricity infrastructure, such as substations across Gauteng, is being adversely affected by longer stages of loadshedding.
  • Stage 6 power cuts can have intervals of four hour outages which can drain substation batteries, making it impossible to remotely switch a station on after loadshedding.
  • These issues are causing widespread delays and longer power outages affecting South Africans.

The unending Stage 6 power outages have pushed South Africans to the brink after Eskom announced they would be implemented last week.

Almost a full week later and the country’s public power utility has yet to make any more communications about the state of the country’s beleaguered power grid and its generation infrastructure.

The cause of the Stage 6 cuts, amounting to eight (sometimes 10) hours of no electricity per day was that 11 of Eskom’s generating units broke down on Wednesday 11th January.

Across government agencies, the Stage 6 cuts have been labelled as a “crisis,” and if you have noticed that it is taking longer and longer for the power to return after scheduled times, there is a reason for this.

According to City of Tshwane MMC for Utilities and Regional Operations Daryl Johnston, high levels of loadshedding are wreaking havoc on the capital’s public energy infrastructure.

“Raised levels of load shedding are a crisis for our municipality, affecting both the condition of our electricity network, as well as our ability to attend to outages,” Johnston said, quoted by SA News.

“Our networks were never designed for load shedding and continuously turning the network on and off has a major impact on the condition of our network infrastructure,” he added.

Johnston explains that these high levels of loadshedding can lead to longer outages, outside of the scheduled blackouts. These can happen due to overloading of the local infrastructure, as well as vandalism and criminal activity such as copper cable theft.

“[As] the frequency of load shedding increases, City resources will be stretched by just switching areas on and off,” the MMC says.

“The same teams needed to perform this switching also play a critical role in electricity network repair and maintenance work and they will have significantly less time available to work on restoring electricity for non-load-shedding related outages.”

This means that more areas in Tshwane will be without power for longer, especially as Stage 6 loadshedding continues unabated. And it isn’t just the capital city, as more of Gauteng is dealing with the same issue.

According to City Power, Johannesburg’s local power infrastructure maintenance company, many more prolonged power outages have been encountered after loadshedding.

“The impact of loadshedding on our fleet of backups is huge, coupled with the fact that some of them are old,” the company indicated in a Twitter thread attributed to CEO Tshifularo Mashava about prolonged outages.

“Rampant loadshedding, especially the higher stages we find ourselves in, is exposing our aged network, especially the substation batteries,” Mashava says.

City Power uses backup batteries, with eight-hour lifespans connected to its infrastructure which are meant to “play backup during the blackouts and assist replacements of the old batteries to ensure [City Power] cut down on interruptions after loadshedding.”

Mashava explains that areas not coming back online after loadshedding, it usually due to substation batteries running out of power after four-hour cuts or longer, which impedes remote switching.

This forces City Power to manually send operators to perform manual switches, which takes time and resources.

The company says it does not have the budget to address all the substations and their batteries across Johannesburg that experience infrastructure damage due to longer stages of loadshedding, but the company is moving funds to address “the most critical areas.”

One of these areas is Roodepoort, City Power confirms, which is still experiencing prolonged outages due to weakened infrastructure, especially after inclement weather experienced in December.

At that time executive mayor of Johannesburg Mpho Phalatse sent an urgent request to Eskom for some regions of the city to be exempt from loadshedding. This was in order for City Power to manage with maintenance across its fleet, as damages caused by heavy rains were only made worse by heightened loadshedding.

The request was apparently accepted a few days later, but neither Eskom more City Power indicated which areas were exempt and for how long.

There is no loadshedding reprieve in sight for South Africans. Eskom is unable to handle the energy burden across its faltering fleet and forced maintenance of its sole nuclear power station. The South African government have also yet to announce any concrete measures to address Stage 6 power cuts.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Luis Monzon

Luis Monzon

Journalist. Covering education, AAA gaming and consumer tech. Reach me at Luis@htxt.co.za.

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