Johannesburg network still deficient

According to City Power, power failures in the city were down 17 percent in the year to June as a result of a new training programme and the refurbishment of Johannesburg’s electricity grid.

Between July and this month, the city was plunged into at least three major power cuts in the northern suburbs and one on the West Rand.

According to Pieterse, more than 70 percent of electricity cuts in the city are still being caused by ageing power infrastructure, some of which dates back to the 1940s.

There is concern among members of the city council that despite overspending on its budget last year, the utility is still engaging in disaster management rather than routine checks, largely because of staff shortages.

Pieterse insisted yesterday that the money invested in the electricity system was beginning to bear fruit, particularly in the high-voltage sector, where the bulk of the money had been spent.

“We are doing much better than planned, which means we are spending in the right places, but not nearly enough has been spent to get the system running properly.

“We would need to spend between R2 billion and R4 billion over the next four years to see the full benefit.”

Pieterse said the utility had concentrated on high voltage first because it was capable of causing the most damage.

High-voltage power cuts have dropped from 140 a year three years ago to fewer than 100 this year.

It looks like this year’s medium voltage outages will not beat last year’s 1248, which Pieterse attributes to the August cold snap, which pushed up usage.

Dennis Hunt, Democratic Alliance spokesman for municipal entities in Johannesburg, said yesterday that City Power was managing to spend its budget and was reaching its targets.

“With R700 million being spent in the last financial year, you will have a lot more equipment installed; unfortunately a lot of money could have been saved if the old equipment was looked after,” he said.

Hunt said the utility was still taking four to five hours to restore power during large power outages, which was harming businesses and inconveniencing residents.

“This is because City Power has a shortage of skilled staff, particularly skilled protection technicians.”

Hunt said City Power’s record- keeping was acceptable despite a damning report by the National Electricity Regulator.

“The utility’s records are still not that good when it comes to when equipment was last checked, particularly when it involves big transformer maintenance,” Hunt said. – Business Day.

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