Cape Town residents may be spared #loadshedding – for now

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While most of South Africa may experience stage 1 loadshedding on Friday due to industrial action at Eskom, the City of Cape Town has assured residents that they will keep the lights on – if residents conserve power over the peak consumption periods.

On Friday afternoon the City said spare generation capacity at its Steenbras pumped storage scheme allowed the municipality to keep providing power during the first two blocks of outages, between 12:00-14:00 and 14:00-16:00, as these were off-peak times. The City advised residents to familiarize themselves with the loadshedding schedule available on the City’s website to know when to expect their area to be without power and to prepare accordingly.

“We are entirely dependent on Eskom informing us of what their generation capacity will be so, unfortunately, we are at this point unable to provide residents with more detailed information on what to expect. However we believe that there is a risk that load shedding will continue to be implemented throughout the next week,” said Councillor Xanthea Limberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy.

 “Our teams were given a few minutes’ notice yesterday evening that they would need to trigger load shedding operations, and this was amidst conflicting messages from the parastatal, so we urge residents to be on guard and prepared for this eventuality at all times,” Limberg said.

Friday is the second time in 48 hours that the state power utility implemented low-level loadshedding. Eskom is embroiled in a wage dispute with workers and on Friday afternoon metal workers union Numsa announced that it has rejected the utility’s decision to engage in an arbitration process, because they were not consulted. 

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said unions have unanimously agreed to refer the dispute to the CCMA. This could increase the risk of loadshedding over the weekend, as parts of South Africa find themselves in the grip of a cold front which is set to see temperatures plummet.

“Eskom calls on all consumers to assist by reducing their electricity consumption by switching off geysers, electric heating, pool pumps, and all non-essential appliances throughout the day. Customers are cautioned to treat all electrical connections as live during this period. We would like to thank our workers who have continued working under very difficult circumstances and all South Africans who have heeded the call to action to use electricity sparingly,” the utility said in a statement earlier on Friday.

Limberg asked Cape Town residents to make a concerted effort to save electricity – especially during the evening when usage is at its peak. “If residents are using a lot of energy then there is not much left to spare of the Steenbras surplus. We are especially grateful for the power generated by the Steenbras pumped storage scheme as it allowed our Muslim residents to celebrate Eid without having to sit down to a cold lunch,” Limberg said.

‘We further ask that residents please do not phone the call centre about power outage unless more than 30 minutes has passed beyond the scheduled period for their area, as this will overload the staff.”

Limberg says the City is hopeful that it will not need to resort to loadshedding over the weekend, and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

The City has the following tips to help residents prepare for an outage:

  • Charge your phone
  • Fill your tank – petrol station pumps don’t work during outages
  • Have some cash handy as ATMs won’t work
  • Switch electric garage doors and security gates to manual operation
  • Make sure you have torches, batteries, candles and matches, and put them somewhere where they can be easily found in the dark
  • Keep boiled water in a thermos flask for hot drinks

Outage Tips:

Switch off and unplug all electronics and appliances when the power is due to go off as it may come back with a spike in the voltage, which can damage electronic devices such as computers, television sets, DVD players, etc.

  • If your electricity remains off for longer than the period specified in the schedule, SMS the City’s technical operations centre on 31220. The restoration of power sometimes results in what is described as ‘nuisance tripping’, which often goes unreported due to the assumption that the outage is due to load shedding.