Alarm as city power cuts out

2009-03-24 00:00

While a tenuous power supply could be leaving parts of the city vulnerable to outages of massive proportions, residents have been warned to cut back on their power consumption as much as possible to ease the load on the ailing system, which failed on Monday night.

Power to those parts of the city affected was restored last night, easing the mass panic that ensued yesterday after a rumour circulated that the electricity would be off for up to four days.

Phil Mashoko, deputy municipal manager for infrastructure services, quashed the rumour, but admitted that the power supply to the parts of the city that went down yesterday is now operating at 50% risk, meaning that it if goes down, there is no replacement and nothing to use as standby.

“If it faults, we have a big problem,” said Mashoko.

Mashoko said the municipality is speaking to other municipalities and Eskom to see if they could borrow a transformer. He said they are also going to swing parts of the load off the substation to the Prince Alfred substation today to lighten the load.

They are trying to repair the substation that failed and are looking at constructing new lines between the networks. “While we are exploring all avenues, we appeal to residents to use electricity sparingly and efficiently to reduce the load demand.”

Mashoko blamed the outage on the late delivery of new transformers that were ordered 18 months ago. These were being relied upon to upgrade the ageing Pine Street substation.

The transformer that was being used to supply the area in the interim started giving trouble.

“This move was viewed as necessary, because the working transformer was showing signs of malfunction with oil leaks and, to avert a possible unplanned outage, management decided to replace the transformer with a refurbished transformer.”

This was done on February 25.

“We were hoping this would take us through to May when the new ones are due to arrive.”

But the refurbished transformer faulted on Monday night, cutting power to Boughton, Blackridge, Prestbury, Clarendon, Phayiphini, Wembley, Montrose, Pine Street, Berg Street, parts of Victoria Road and parts of the CBD.

Mashoko said contractors started working at 7 am yesterday to recommission the old transformer that was put out of service in preparation for maintenance, by reconnecting all the necessary cables and overhead conductors.

At 2.30 am yesterday, power supply was restored through alternative ring feeds to Pine Street, Berg Street and parts of Victoria Road and the CBD.

The other areas remained without electricity. Mashoko expected power to be restored by 7 pm last night.

Ward Councillor Mark Steele said he was concerned about the misinformation circulating about the power outages yesterday. He said at an Exco meeting, senior managment undertook that it would do everything it could to inform people of the situation.

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