HomeFeatures/AnalysisExclusive interview with Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services...

Exclusive interview with Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services for the City of Cape Town

Ernest_SonnenbergThe City of Cape Town is a long standing partner of African Utility Week, how important is this event for the city?

African Utility Week presents a fantastic platform for role players from all over the continent to share ideas and build relationships, and any opportunity for the City to facilitate progress of this nature is of great value. We are proud to play host to this great event.

Can you name the power, water and sanitation projects in Cape Town that you are currently most excited about?

The City’s water and sanitation department recently took delivery of a new piece of machinery set to expedite its bulk sewer upgrade programme – a micro-tunnelling machine that has a number of features set to speed up the digging of underground tunnels for laying of sewer pipes in the City’s R250 million sanitation master plan.

The AVN 800 XC Herrenknecht Micro-tunnelling machine was acquired at a cost of just over R10.6 million and comes with technology that enables safe, fast and efficient tunnelling in even the most difficult pipe jacking projects.

The machine has been used in more than a thousand projects around the world. It is controlled with a laser navigation system that allows for precise positioning, has a built-in crusher that can reduce boulders to smaller pieces and offers extra safety in less stable geological conditions which is useful for tunneling operations in the sandy Cape Flats soil.

The AVN 800 XC will be put to the test by CSV Construction during the final phase of the Cape Flats 3 Bulk Sewer project. The CF3 (Phase 2) is a critical component of the City’s sewer network and is constructed to serve a population of nearly one million residents in the Bonteheuwel, Heideveld, Manenberg, Gugulethu and Nyanga areas. This project forms part of the City’s Sanitation Master Plan, which comprises infrastructure enhancement of the sewer reticulation system, and will ultimately be completed by the end of 2017 at a total cost of approximately R250 million.

The extra capacity that the CF3 construction will provide will allow the City to periodically decommission other sewer infrastructure in the area for much-needed maintenance and rehabilitation causing problems such as blockages.

The second phase of the CF3 will be constructed below ground, with the greater part thereof being situated in close proximity to or within existing roadways. The least disruptive route for the local community and motorists passing through the affected areas has been chosen for this construction. In addition, new construction technologies that do not require the digging of trenches are being used to limit the inherent disturbance caused by construction work. The Herrenknecht Microtunneling Machine will be crucial in this regard.

Acquiring this technology is a major step forward for the City and will allow for greater efficiency of future bulk pipe replacement projects. The project team is to be congratulated for their vision and innovation. Staying on the cutting edge of new technology is crucial to ensuring the City is able to provide the best possible service to residents.

We are pleased that this phase of the project can now begin, as the completion will ensure that we have sufficient capacity in our sewer network to limit the impact of blockages. However, I would also like to call upon our residents to refrain from disposing of items into their sinks and toilets that could block up the network. Common causes of blockages are rags and cooking fat or grease. While newer technologies and infrastructure projects can assist us, we need the cooperation of residents to ensure that sewage overflows are prevented.


The City recently partnered with the Japanese government to host a pilot plant for plastics-to-energy conversion at its Kraaifontein Waste management facility, and this is in line with our belief that new technologies should be explored in the interests of finding sustainable solutions to our energy and waste challenges.

I’m also pleased to see the steady growth of our Small Scale Embedded Generation project, which enables power producers to feed extra electricity back into the City’s power grid, resulting in their receiving an offset against their monthly accounts.

How important is renewable energy in the city’s planning for the future?

It is of paramount importance for the future security of the City that various renewable energy sources are explored for consideration for inclusion in its plans.

We are finding that more and more of our customers are aware of renewable energy options and are keen to utilize them. It is our job as the service providers be responsive to these calls.

The City has a strong energy efficiency platform – what have been the benefits thus far?

While the emphasis is on ensuring that we use our limited resources as efficiently as possible, the added benefit for the city is from a cost perspective. Wherever we save energy, we are also saving the cost of energy. And money that is saved allows us a bit of room to enhance existing services and explore alternatives, creating better value for our customers.

What will be the City’s message to the 6000+ power and water professionals that will visit the Mother City this year?

We would like to show delegates that the City of Cape Town is committed to implementing changes at our facilities that support green energy.

Our speakers will include:
– Malungisa Pontia, Senior Professional Officer, Device & Meter Management, City of Cape Town
– Brian Jones, Head: Green Energy, City of Cape Town
– Sarah Rushmere, Energy Efficiency Strategist, City of Cape Town

During the site visits delegates will also be able to view:
– City of Cape Town’s Electricity Department which has 400 solar panels installed to help reduce the energy consumption of the building, generating approximately 156 800 kWh per year.
– The Gallows Hill Traffic Department which is situated in Green Point and is one of the first City-owned buildings to receive all three energy efficient interventions.

See more: http://www.african-utility-week.com/SiteVisits

Is there a lot of cooperation between the large metros countrywide?

Yes, there is cooperation between the metros countrywide. The Departments of Water & Sanitation from across the country meet to discuss situations experienced countrywide. Occasionally this is done through SALGA.

Another example is the City’s Electricity Services Department being part of the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU) where most municipalities are represented and thus afforded the opportunity to share advice and issues of commonality.

And with neighbouring countries?

As above, the AMEU also includes representatives from Namibia. We are always open to teaming with our neighbours to explore sustainable solutions to the challenges we face in the SADC region.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’m hopeful that all delegates will walk away from the conference confident that it has opened the door to mutually beneficial collaborations.