Load-shedding shock

2011-05-09 00:00

WHILE hot Mothers Day lunches in parts of Hilton were interrupted at 1 pm when yet another power outage stopped stoves and cast a gloom on the happy occasion, there are hopes that today may see a return to normality for the power-challenged suburb, which has seen weekend load-shedding.

The Witness yesterday received calls from frustrated Hilton residents after outages on Saturday evening too. Some said they had been told by municipal staff manning the helplines that the outages were due to load shedding.

Electricity process manager Maxwell Mthembu said at 3.30 pm that he had just been made aware of the fault and that someone was going to check what was happening. “It’s a very small area that is out. It’s a mini-sub fault.” Later attempts to reach him and get clarity on when the supply would be reinstated were unsuccessful.

However, Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr later confirmed that after the outage (which lasted until 6 pm) was fixed, demand on the ailing supply was very high and that load shedding may become necessary. When approached by The Witness, Tarr got into his car to drive around the suburb to investigate the cause of the outage.

Mthembu said Hilton’s electricity supply had been extremely vulnerable with only one in-feed line operational, but from today it would be more secure, with the second line back in operation.

“We asked everyone in and around Hilton and Sweetwaters to be very careful with their electricity usage, especially between 5 pm and 9 pm and between 7 am and 10am this past weekend as we cannot load the line with more than 13 MVA. At 14 MVA, it trips … This line was designed many years ago to carry just 5MVA. Hopefully with the second line up and running, life goes back to normal. We had to take some areas off-line over the weekend to prevent the line from reaching 14 MVA, because when that happens it’s on the floor and takes days to repair.” This was the “load shedding” referred to by the municipal helpline.

The message to residents to cut down on consumption was sent out on Friday on East Coast Radio. It asked also that all unused electrical appliances be switched off at all times to help the suburb limp along.

Frustrated resident Brent Corcoran said he had not heard the message. “We got no message about anything. Why don’t they use available technology and e-mail or SMS us? They have the database. If they improve communication and get the call centre operational it would help in terms of reducing frustrations.”

Another resident, Rob Buchanan, said, “Twenty years ago Hilton was like a little village. Now it’s looking like Sandton. The municipality has allowed it to continue growing without the necessary infrastructure”

Last week municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said the emergency night phone line does not have the capacity to deal with a large volume of calls.

He said a new system has been installed to deal with emergency calls about infrastructural problems. He said it is hoped the new system will become operational in two weeks’ time.

Reporter Nalini Naidoo wrote that the plan mooted to save Hilton’s electricity supply was never implemented, despite being approved by council in 2007.

Had the Msunduzi Municipality implemented the five-year plan in 2007, when it was approved by council, the work would have been completed in this financial year, 2011/12, she reported last Monday.

DA councillor Pam Passmoor said she had been told that the fault was at the Crossways sub-station at Irvine Road, but this was not confirmed by the municipality.

“We cannot go on like this. It’s freezing cold and pouring. People want to know when the power is coming back on,” she said after 5.30 pm.

Parts of Montrose were also without power for some hours on Saturday night, and residents there woke up to no water yesterday morning.

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