By Sibongile Khumalo for Fin24
Eskom says it has taken the unprecedented decision to restrict electricity supply to parts of residential areas around Johannesburg, where unusual surges in consumption have been recorded.
There has been a trend of surges during peak usage periods, between 05:00 and 09:00, and between 17:00 and 20:00, leading the power utility to suspect a link to illegal connections.
Eskom says the decision to restrict supply was taken to safeguard equipment and costs associated with repairs, as power is being used indiscriminately during these peak periods. It will be implemented on a rotational basis.
“This unprecedented measure is necessary to contain the situation. This is in line with our priorities of containing operational costs and [improving] plant performance,” said Motlhabane Ramashi, Senior Manager for Maintenance and Operations in Gauteng.
Illegal connections and meter tampering have been identified as potential causes for the unusual uptick in usage in parts of Diepsloot, Braamfischerville, Ivory Park, parts of Soweto, the Vaal and Orange Farm.
Eskom previously stated that it seen a marked drop in electricity demand since the beginning of the lockdown, helping it to avoid load shedding. The company said the high usage of electricity could not be attributed to the current lockdown.
Illegal connections and non-payment for electricity are some of the challenges eating into Eskom’s income, and the company has projected a R20 billion full-year loss for the 2020 financial year.
By Jenni Evans for News24
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba is seeking an urgent meeting with the Eskom board over the power utility’s declaration that it will no longer do repairs in places illegally connected to the power grid.
This follows a meeting between Mashaba and Eskom officials on Monday to deal with complaints by Soweto residents about illegal electricity connections, vandalised infrastructure and extended blackouts.
“Due to the complex nature of the issues discussed between myself and the Eskom team, during a meeting at Megawatt Park, it was decided that it would be prudent to include the Eskom board in our deliberations,” said Mashaba in a statement.
“I have therefore requested an urgent meeting with the board of Eskom and its shareholder within the next 24 hours. The team at Eskom has indeed committed to ensuring this does take place.”
Mashaba felt it was important for the city and Eskom to work together to find solutions to issues faced by Sowetans and other residents affected by ongoing blackouts arising from Eksom’s credit management processes.
Last week Eskom threatened that it will not repair infrastructure in areas where there are illegal connections or the safety of staff cannot be guaranteed.
“Eskom will only restore supply to legal and paying customers in the areas, on condition that the community allows safe access to Eskom staff to conduct audits and remove illegal connections,” the statement said.
It was previously reported that Soweto has been ranked as one of the top defaulters in the country, where residents owe Eskom more than R17bn.
Mashaba said last week after Eskom’s warning that he felt compelled to intervene on behalf of residents who will be affected by the actions of a few.
In February, the Soweto debt was sitting at R17-billion in unpaid electricity bills.
Eskom spokesperson, Dikatso Mothae said the power utility “continues with initiatives to improve revenue recovery from residential customers”.
These include removing illegal connections, conducting meter audits, repairing faulty or tampered meters and limiting ghost vending of prepaid electricity, installing smart and/or prepaid meters within protective enclosures to prevent tampering, converting customers from post-paid to prepaid and stepping up disconnection of customers not honouring their current accounts
In his State of the Nation Address last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ailing Eskom will continue to received further bailouts.
He said the government has a strategy to deal with Eskom defaulting on its loans.
“We will, therefore, table a Special Appropriation Bill on an urgent basis to allocate a significant portion of the R230-billion fiscal support that Eskom will require over the next 10 years in the early years,” Ramaphosa said.
The president also said that Eskom is working hard to recover money owed by municipalities and customers.
Additionally, he said that “the days of boycotting electricity payments are over”.
Meanwhile, according to Mothae, municipal debt is sitting at R20-billion as at the end of March 2019.
“We continue to have discussions with Municipalities, Provincial Government and National Government and the Inter-Ministerial Task Team to find a resolution. We are continuously reviewing Payment Arrangements with municipalities, issuing default letters and then as a last resort we start a PAJA [Promotion of Administrative Justice Act] process when they default which leads to planned power interruptions,” she said.
“However, we normally get interdicted by customers or customer groupings preventing us from interrupting electricity supply and Municipalities typically take payment holiday during these interdicts. Eskom has now started to issue summons to municipalities for the amount in the Acknowledgement of Debt,” Mothae added.
Earlier this year, the Orlando Action Committee said it was willing to negotiate with the President Cyril Ramaphosa on electricity payment.
The Sunday World reported that Gauteng townships have become “a nightmare” for Eskom employees, who are often “intimidated and assaulted when working in these areas”.