From Floodwaters to Power Lines: The Electricity Struggle in Western Cape

Pretoria – In a press briefing earlier this week, Electricity Minister Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa provided insights into the Western Cape power situation following the province’s devastating floods. Of the 82,000 residents affected, a mere 15,000 still await reconnection.

Briefing Rescheduled

Although these briefings typically occupy weekends, the recent public holiday led to its shift to Tuesday. Minister Ramokgopa took this platform not only to enlighten about flood repercussions but also address the fluctuations in load-shedding stages.

A Glimpse into Last Week’s Power Play

Despite “improved available generation capacity” and fewer breakdowns, the past week witnessed a dance between no load-shedding to stage 3 power cuts. Our fellow citizens heaved a sigh of relief during the extended weekend, as load-shedding was momentarily halted.

This relief, however, was short-lived. Eskom made an unforeseen announcement on Monday: three generating units failed, making it a challenge “to replenish the pumped storage dam levels sufficiently for the week ahead”. Consequently, stage 3 load-shedding resumed, continuing indefinitely.

Reflecting on this, the minister remarked, “Over the period from September 18-22, there’s evident capacity improvement. Notably, on September 19, capacity crossed the 30,000MW mark. This boost is attributed to returning maintenance units and enhanced capacity.”

Flood Impact on Power

Speaking of the calamitous floods, Ramokgopa highlighted its extensive impact, particularly in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. “Severe weather led to inundated homes and compromised infrastructure,” he noted.

“We had over 82,000 customers disconnected due to the inclement weather in the Western Cape. As of now, 67,000 have been restored, leaving 15,000 awaiting reconnection.” – Electricity Minister Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

Eskom’s Palmiet pumping station, too, felt the flood’s wrath, contributing to the re-imposition of stage 3 on Monday. Eskom, considering the floods’ widespread destruction, halted load-shedding in affected coastal areas to ensure secure and safe power restoration.

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Eskom’s Commitment

The minister expressed satisfaction with Eskom’s proactive measures post-flood. He commended their collaboration with local municipalities and government agencies to not only provide emergency relief but also reconnect residents swiftly.

While addressing Eskom’s ongoing maintenance, the minister brought to light the country’s descent to stage 6 load-shedding in early September. He mentioned, “Maintenance averaged 4,555MW over the past week but elevated to over 5,000MW from September 21.”

Furthermore, insights from the recent transmission financing seminar at the JSE were shared. Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s head of generation, underscored their strategy: leveraging the Kusile power station’s returning units to sustain lower load-shedding stages amidst maintenance.

With an assertive note, he concluded, “As the Kusile units return, we’ve no intention to escalate the stages.”