NATIONAL NEWS - Power utility Eskom says the implementation of load reduction in various parts of the country is of little benefit, “a drop in the ocean”, when there is a shortage of electricity supply.
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said load reduction was implemented as a way of protecting Eskom infrastructure from the effects of illegal connections, which could result in transformers and mini-substations exploding due to being overloaded.
“Load reduction gets implemented during the peak hours in localised areas that are prone to illegal connections, which cause the damage stated above. These preventable explosions of transformers and mini-substations have cost Eskom an average R1 billion a year in Gauteng alone and mostly occur during the hours 5am to 9am, and 5pm to 10pm.
“Load shedding is effected when Eskom is short of generating capacity and is implemented as a measure of last resort to protect the integrity of the power system countrywide. When there is insufficient generation capacity to supply the demand [load] from all the customers, the electricity system becomes unbalanced, which can cause it to trip countrywide [a blackout], and which could take weeks to restore.”
Mantshantsha added that Eskom continued to urge consumers to use electricity sparingly while the power utility kept up with its maintenance work, and the probability of load shedding remains.
On Thursday, load reduction was implemented in parts of Mpumalanga, the Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo.
Eskom said load reduction was introduced and continued to be implemented in high-density areas where illegal electricity connections were rife.
“Illegal connections, meter bypasses, vandalism and other theft-related activities on Eskom’s infrastructure results in the overloading of the power system and continues to be the leading cause for the sporadic and prolonged electricity interruptions, which leave communities without power for days,” the power utility said, adding that this cost it billions “in failed equipment, such as transformers, mini-substations and other equipment”.
In an effort to curb illegal connections, Eskom continuously monitored the purchasing patterns of customers and when it noticed a discrepancy “due to non-buying” or a customer purchasing electricity from an illegal vendor, a site verification was conducted and if wrongdoing was proven, Eskom issued a fine for tampering which amounted to R6072 and the customer was disconnected.
“The case is handed over to Eskom security and where further investigations are done in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies including the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force. This is not done once. It’s a continuous audit process and the public should take note of such consequence when illegally connecting to the Eskom grid,” Eskom said.
Eskom said it also continuously removed illegal connections, conducts meter audits, repairs faulty or meters that were tampered with, limits illegal vending of prepaid electricity and installs split smart/prepaid meters to avoid tampering all in an effort to curb illegal connections.
“This also improves revenue recovery from residential customers.”
The power utility said it remained committed to working with communities across the country on finding solutions for illegal connections and further urged that these, as well as meter tampering and the involvement of its employees in any of these acts, should be reported.
“The Eskom crime line number is 0800 11 27 22.”
Eskom said it would continue implementing load reduction in areas where there was a high density of network overloading “until such time that the root causes of overloading in those networks are addressed”.