Guest Column

City Power working hard on stable power supply to all Joburg residents

2019-02-02 09:03
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We suspect that deliberate acts of sabotage are taking place, and this is being investigated by City Power and security agencies alike, writes Nico de Jager.

Over the past couple of weeks large parts of the City serviced by the Randburg, Hursthill and Roodepoort substations have been left in the dark for days on end. This has, understandably, caused residents a great deal of frustration.

I believe therefore that it is quite important to understand the causes of these outages and what City Power is to mitigate these outages.

The executive mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, has been very candid with the public about the state of infrastructure backlog to the tune of R170bn. And to focus only on eradicating this backlog with the R10bn capital budget very year, City Power would have to halt maintaining its existing services as well as expanding services to the forgotten people who have never had access to any power supply.

This backlog does indeed put unsurmountable pressure on the City’s already aging infrastructure. This is compounded by loadshedding and vandalism, often malicious sabotage, of our infrastructure.

Perhaps not so surprising, extreme weather and loadshedding can also cause very real damage to the City’s infrastructure, and often does. Unfortunately, no infrastructure is completely resistant against the elements of nature.

City Power has therefore embarked on a major project to replace and upgrade elements of the cable network. This includes the new Aerial Bundle Conductor (ABC) cables that have been used to reduce unplanned outages. ABC cables are used in overhead lines where we previously used bare cabling, which are more prone to outages.

The impact of loadshedding on already vulnerable infrastructure also causes extreme weakness in the network. When power is restored the current that goes through the system is so intense that it immediately reduces the lifespan of the infrastructure.

What is most important, however, is to secure electricity supply to the residents of Johannesburg.

Over the past three years City Power has embarked on several interventions, the latest being the completed R900m upgrade to the Sebenza Substation.This massive facility will help stabilise the network and ensure a consistent supply of electricity for the next 40 years. This substation will stabilise more than half of the City’s electricity grid.

City Power is also currently refurbishing the Roosevelt Park substation, with a budget of R133m spent for the past three years. This includes a new 88kv line feeding from the Delta Substation, with almost 60% of the work done and the remainder underway. This will provide greater redundancy, a key component in ensuring network stability.

Starting soon will be the installation of two additional feeder lines that will further stabilise supply to Randpark Ridge and Boskruin.

City Power has also been given an additional R20m in the mid-term budget adjustment to upgrade the Hursthill supply area, where so many successive outages have happened recently.

And on top of all the physical hardware, we are boosting our maintenance capacity with the training of 100 new contractors. They are training to add to the current pool of resources, to increase capacity so we can respond more quickly and efficiently to any and all outages, and to reduce and limit any network downtime.

All these projects are hinged on the City’s Diphetogo strategy, meaning real fundamental change. This strategy prioritises addressing the enormous inherited infrastructure backlog. It also calls on residents to help protect the City’s infrastructure, which it ultimately belongs to.It costs the City millions to replace vandalised infrastructure and forces the diversion of money meant for restoring dignity to residents who do not even have power supply.

We suspect that deliberate acts of sabotage are taking place, and this is being investigated by City Power and security agencies alike. We also have assistance from the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department’s (JMPD) Infrastructure Protection Unit to keep these resources safe.

But only with the support of residents, can we truly address the massive challenge of turning the City of Johannesburg’s maintenance trajectory around. It will take time, but the DA-led coalition government, with the support of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), have made this a priority.Indeed, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

- Nico De Jager is MMC: Environment and Infrastructure Services Department at the City of Johannesburg.

Read more on:    city of johannesburg
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