Unveiling the Mystery of ‘Load-shedding-free’ Zones in South Africa

Wayne Duvenage, CEO of Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, alongside energy specialist Chris Yelland, has voiced apprehensions regarding certain South African regions seemingly evading load-shedding without necessary regulatory sanctions. These insights came in response to a Rapport’s Sunday newspaper piece.

A Load-Shedding-free Haven?

Rapport delved into the growing trend of residents bragging about load-shedding exemptions, with real estate agents marketing specific localities as ‘load-shedding-free’. Regulations implemented in 2017 dictate that South Africa’s National Energy Regulator (Nersa) must first endorse exemption requests and disclose the list of absolved customers. However, Nersa revealed to Rapport that they haven’t received such applications since the regulation’s implementation.

Unequal Power Distribution

Nersa’s failure to conduct audits on power distributors regarding their load-shedding impartiality has raised eyebrows. Duvenage speculates that this lack of scrutiny could potentially spawn corruption, with officials accepting bribes to spare certain areas from load-shedding. Yelland echoes his concern, noting apparent inequities in power distribution, where some regions experience minimal to no load-shedding, forcing others to endure disproportionate and unjust levels of the same.

Administrative Decisions

Mark Surgeon, a council member of FF Plus in Tshwane, mentioned that certain metro area exemptions are ‘purely administrative’ decisions, requiring no council consent. The municipality has excused its Kentron and Wapadrand substations from load-shedding due to infrastructural vulnerabilities. However, this explanation does not account for other parts of Centurion also being exempt.

Also Read:   A Sigh of Relief: Eskom Eases Load Shedding Amid Winter Chills

Are Some Areas More Equal?

Speculations abound that these exemptions could be due to older infrastructures powering critical services, including the Tshwane municipal buildings, a police station, a fire station, Netcare Unitas hospital, and the Gautrain. Large parts of Hatfield, Arcadia, Sunnyside, and surrounding suburbs, known for hosting official government residences and numerous embassies, also escape load-shedding.

The People’s Perception

These exemptions generate mixed feelings among residential power users. Some believe municipal technicians are simply neglecting them, arguing that exposure could invite scrutiny. Contrarily, the actual reasons can be more intricate, often rooted in technical issues like sensitive substations susceptible to frequent switch-offs.

Special Cases

While some MyBroadband forum members have highlighted areas where load-shedding is non-existent, it’s important to note that hospitals, often situated within these areas, don’t automatically earn exemptions. They must maintain their backup power infrastructure and obtain necessary Nersa approval. Under the regulations, critical service providers eligible for exemptions include:

  • Railway services
  • Water suppliers
  • Petroleum refineries
  • Coal mines
  • Electricity control centres
  • Deep-mine power suppliers
  • National keypoints

However, all these entities must have their backup power. In certain circumstances, if not fed via a dedicated supply line, they may not be exempted from load-shedding.

The significant suburban area around the Union Buildings’ exemption validity might be called into question. Crucially, the regulations seem to lack provisions for areas with struggling substations.