No clarity on rotational load shedding

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GK CRONJE

1 September 2020

“The municipality expects that before residents go to work, they switch off unused appliances. Why should they switch on appliances like geysers, televisions, etc. when they are not at home?” MLM stated.

Since March 2020, residents of Ermelo and surroundings have had to bite the bullet with daily rotational load shedding implemented by Msukaligwa Local Municipality. The load shedding occurs mainly during peak times, much to the frustration of residents who arrive home, to find that there is no electricity supply. Mundane chores such as cooking, bathing and laundry have become a struggle, and many students who make use of online education portals are left with no means to progress. The supply is more often than not interrupted for extended periods, with Mlm blaming the infamous 88kVA line for the majority of supply woes. Other reasons are alleged illegal connections, cable theft and a myriad of other, more feeble excuses. The Tribune directed an several enquiries at MLM regarding the ongoing municipal load shedding. In light of submissions by various political parties regarding the poor performance of municipalities in Mpumalanga, especially regarding the servicing of the Eskom accounts, it was enquired if the Eskom account is actually serviced per agreement, and if any arrears in payment are present. The outstanding amount owed my MLM is high, but relatively low in comparison with other municipalities in the province.

The Tribune also enquired if, and how the amount owed to Eskom has impacted the notified maximum demand (NMD). The NMD is the contracted notified maximum demand, expressed in kVA, and the NMD should, and can not be exceeded unless agreed to by Eskom. An excess network access charge will be levied for exceeding the NMD. MLM has previously stated that the infrastructure is allegedly overloaded during times of municipal load shedding, and that the demand indeed exceeds the supply. The NMD comes into play noticeably of late, seen as Ermelo has been experiencing a disproportionate amount of electrical issues compared to previous years.

Upon enquiry, MLM responded as follows: “The current account with Eskom is up to date. MLM is required to adhere to the agreed NMD and should not exceed it unless Eskom has agreed to the exceedance in writing and in advance. An exceedance of the NMD is a breach of Eskom’s electricity supply agreement and/or connection and use of system agreement. Eskom request the municipality to remain within the contractual NMD. If the municipality fails to heed the request above, remedies may be implemented by Eskom to correct such breach, including the right to limit the capacity. The municipality, in order to comply with the request, implemented load reduction in order to be within the NMD. Renegotiation with Eskom are ongoing in order to come up with mutual beneficial agreement of the NMD. Before an upgrade is implemented, Eskom conducts a feasibility study, among others, to check whether the capacity of the Eskom network is adequate to make supply available at a higher level on a continuous basis, etc.”

MLM wholly ignored the enquiries as to when the load reduction will end, and what actionable plan MLM is employing to service the community. Residents and businesses in Ermelo are slowly but surely getting fed up with MLM’s tomfoolery and silence on the matter, as there are no honest, direct and palpable feedback from municipal authorities. If enquiries are responded to, elaborate statements which employ evasion tactics are submitted, often leaving more questions than answers. A Facebook group, which contains a substantial following of disgruntled residents, is evidence of the dismay regarding MLM’s ineptitude. Talks of a march against the municipality has surfaced, and another group of dismayed residents and businesses are considering legal action against MLM, much like the steps taken against Lekwa Local Municipality (LMM). LMM residents will feel some relief, as the high court has recently placed an interdict against the municipality, preventing them from implementing rotational load shedding permitted on a limitation linked to the shockingly reduced NMD. AfriForum has also locked horns with Eskom and LMM, as the extended periods of rotational load shedding, caused by the municipality, is considered and stated as unconstitutional.

If MLM doesn’t shape up, the same fate awaits them, as many residents and businesses are negatively impacted by the rotational load shedding. The majority of residents and businesses in Ermelo are up to date with their utility bills. MLM has, themselves, stated that Ermelo has the highest utility payment rate from residents, with Chrissiesmeer and Breyten having amongst the poorest paying residents, with a shockingly high non-payment rate. Damage to appliances and equipment is also a cause of great concern, with MLM failing to elaborate on who will be held liable for damages caused by the fluctuation of electricity supply from the municipality. They have, however, added to their weekly load shedding schedule the wording “please switch off appliances to avoid damage from surges”. This statement is of nonsensical value, as many residents are at work during the constant fluctuations, and more often than not at home during these times. “The municipality expects that before residents go to work, they switch off unused appliances. Why should they switch on appliances like geysers, televisions, etc. when they are not at home?” MLM stated. Ultimately, MLM cannot expect to place the onus of damage to appliances on the residents, when the fluctuation of the feed is, to be frank, the doing of the municipality. At this time, residents and businesses can do little but to grin and bear the outages, which were stated as “temporary” when implemented by MLM seven months ago, along with the damages it brings.

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