These areas in Joburg have been hit by the equivalent of stage 9 load shedding

 ·11 Mar 2024

Load rotation due to deteriorating City Power infrastructure means several areas in Johannesburg are currently experiencing outages equivalent to stage 9 load shedding.

In a statement on Monday (11 March), City Power noted it would continue with its emergency load rotation for the Bellevue Substation, which started in February 2024.

Load shedding happens when Eskom’s power supply cannot meet demand due to a constrained grid, and the company shuts down power in a controlled manner (on a national schedule) to prevent a complete grid blackout.

Load rotation, as announced by City Power, is a similar process but on a more localised level and is typically not on a schedule – ie residents experience unplanned outages as the utility rotates the load between different areas.

However, during extended bouts of outages, a formal schedule can be established, as is the case in areas of Joburg.

The statement noted that this load rotation impacts several affected areas, including Bellevue, Bellevue East, Upper Houghton, Observatory, and Yeoville.

Notably, City Power said that the rotation schedule means some affected consumers will experience around 12 hours of no power in a day – up to 13.5 hours if the 30-minute switchover periods are included.

Although not nationwide, according to the NRS048-9 specifications, this is consistent with stage 9 load shedding, which is 12 to 14 hours without power per day or over a 24-hour cycle.

The full statement with the areas affected, as well as the load rotation schedule, is available below.

In a statement on 6 February, the utility said that power outages had increased after a fire gutted the Observatory substation in December, destroying the control room, reported GroudUp.

“For a substation’s control room to be rewired and commissioned, it generally takes about 90 days,” the statement read.

The statement also noted that the Bellevue substation was down as well.

Following these issues, City Power noted that the electricity demand was too high to avoid load rotation, as it was creating further damage to the infrastructure.

“Consumption was too high, which caused further problems. As we switched everybody on, it just spiked, and the cables melted and tripped, so we made a decision to rotate the load,” said City Power general manager Arsenio Cossa.

As a result of the ‘stage 9’ load shedding-like hours, residents from Yeoville and Bellevue marched to City Power’s Doornfontein Depot at the end of February, hoping to have their electricity restored.

Community member Dennis Webster said there had not been a day without an unplanned outage in Yeoville since the start of 2024.

However, in response to the outcry, City Power noted close to 50% of its customers owe the utility billions in unpaid bills, and this money is what is needed to fix the ailing and unreliable infrastructure.

“Over 37,000 accounts are defaulted to City Power. Among them are 480 large power users such as manufacturing and mines; over 10,400 businesses and 104 Government departments, including schools, hospitals, some essential services, and departmental offices; and more than 26,600 outstanding residential accounts.

“Revenue collection impacts heavily on the sustainability of our business and is a key focus area.

“Without this revenue, we cannot invest in the necessary infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted power supply,” City Power said.

In the case of the Bellevue substation, one business owner told eNCA that City Power estimated that it would take approximately R20 million to sort out the affected infrastructure.

Despite this, City Power has noted that overdue maintenance in areas affected by unplanned outages caused by faults and theft should begin in the next few days.

Read: Collapse of Eskom power stations in photos

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