No light at the end of the load reduction tunnel

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GK CRONJE

21 July 2020

According to MLM, higher demand due to the winter cold, coupled with illegal connections leads to load reduction implementation. This is also the root of the unexpected outages, according to MLM. Several enquiries as to what the long term plan for the recovery of the system is, remains a mystery, and replies from MLM circumvents direct answer relating to an employable plan of action. MLM states that theft and vandalism is also a major contributor to unplanned outages.

Much to the frustration and pure irritation of residents of Ermelo and the surroundings, Msukaligwa Local Municipality has implemented daily load reductions since middle May 2020, with no end in sight, as the infrastructure regresses toward oblivion.

According to MLM spokesman, Mr. Zwane, MLM emphasizes that residents should use electricity sparingly to avoid overloading of the 88kV-substation by switching of all non-essential electric appliances from 17:00 to 21:00. Scores of residents have scoffed at this notion, as to many it appears to be an illogical request to expect residents to switch off appliances during peak time. Many have also questioned the fact that the apparently serenely constrained electrical network miraculously recovers after the “peak times” stated by MLM. According to MLM, higher demand due to the winter cold, coupled with illegal connections leads to load reduction implementation. This is also the root of the unexpected outages, according to MLM. Several enquiries as to what the long term plan for the recovery of the system is, remains a mystery, and replies from MLM circumvents direct answer relating to an employable plan of action. MLM states that theft and vandalism is also a major contributor to unplanned outages. However, the state of the substations and mini-subs in Ermelo tells a different story. Whereas MLM claims that vandalism and similar crimes play a major role in the regression of the electrical infrastructure, poor and non-existent maintenance on the electrical structures tells a different tale. A vast majority of the substations are rusting, eroding, and without doors or covers. With the rain season coming, these substations and their electrical components need to be protected from moisture, and without doors and covers this will not be the case.

With the challenges currently faced by MLM, it would be reasonable to expect that preventative maintenance and measures employed now, would save the municipality a large amount of time, money and effort, should they have to replace melted components and cables should substations flashes. It would be logical to assume that if the substation and mini-substation doors were locked, as required by law, the theft, tampering and vandalims would be less of an issue. At this point there have been substations and mini-subs in Ermelo that has been left without covers for a year or more, without maintenance or repair.

A resident in Chris de Villiers Street has explicitly stated that she has contacted the municipal call centre on several occasions regarding the state of the subs in this area, but to no avail, and the call centre failing to provide a reference number for tracking. The call centre operators allegedly state that “the issue will be reported to the electrical team”, and then, seemingly, gets lost in translation. At this point in time, resident have to grin and bear the load reductions employed by the municipality, was now states that residents should switch off electrical appliances during load reduction, as failure to do so may lead to transformer trips, which will result in damage to household appliances upon supply restoration. An enquiry submitted regarding the maintenance issues were ignored by Msukaligwa Local Municipality.

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