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Now it’s Eskom vs municipalities in the loadshedding battleground

The City of Cape Town and the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU) have both questioned Eskom’s assertion that most municipal utilities disobeyed a requirement from Eskom System Operations National Control to loadshed.

Eskom Group CEO Andre de Ruyter and Group Executive: Distribution Monde Bala in their Wednesday update on the current loadshedding situation said that several metros and key industrial sites were undermining their instruction to implement loadshedding. Eskom would ask the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) to take action against them.

The AMEU said they would not defend any of their municipalities if they were to be found not compliant with the NRS048 Part 9 (Electricity supply – Quality of supply) NERSA approved standard, but they questioned whether the correct procedures had been followed.

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“The fact that Eskom has already gone to the national media and pronounced on the non-compliance of the said KICs and municipalities, we believe that Eskom has been disingenuous and irresponsible,” said the AMEU in a press statement.

Last week the total outage on the national electricity system was over 50%, given a nominal 45GW installed capacity. AMEU thus argues that Eskom is unable to deliver on its service delivery mandate effectively and efficiently.

“We also wish to add that in these 13 years municipalities have been cooperating with Eskom to alleviate the power crises. Municipalities purchase as a collective over 40% of Eskom’s power and have been loadshedding their customers at a huge cost and discomfort,” said the AMEU.

Cities starting to deal with loadshedding in their own way

For its part City of Cape Town said it “complies fully with Eskom’s loadshedding instructions in terms of the national standards (NRS048) for loadshedding.”

“When the City offers protection to its customers by implementing a stage lower than that of Eskom, it is done by harnessing spare generation capacity from its Steenbras Hydro Pump Station, and not through non-compliance with the implementation of loadshedding as instructed by Eskom. The City’s protection of its customers has no impact on the national Eskom grid,” read the statement published by the City of Cape Town’s media office.

Taking a leaf out of the Cape Town playbook City Power, the electricity company owned by the City of Johannesburg, recently entered into a power purchase agreement with the Kelvin Power Station. City Power has asked Eskom to exclude them from loadshedding at Stage 1 and 2 as they then could draw additional capacity to offset the difference.

Technical teams from Eskom and City Power are investigating exactly how they could use the extra capacity from Kelvin Power Station to perhaps partially shield the City of Johannesburg from future loadshedding.

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Municipalities and future electricity supply

Eskom has on occasion interrupted electricity supply to extract payment from municipalities, which collectively owe the state utility around R36 billion. The SEO hit a snag in October this year in its efforts to recover unpaid municipal bills after the Constitutional Court upheld a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal that their decision to disconnect electricity to two defaulting municipalities was irrational.

That ruling has far-reaching implications for South African state organs that try to pass their financial problems onto third parties, and Eskom will have to rethink its debt recovery strategy.

Municipalities must comply with NERSA’s regulations though and only an investigation from the regulator will pinpoint exactly who was in the wrong, if indeed anyone was. ESI

To learn more about how energy resilience impacts municipalities, watch the full digital event session Municipal resilience in South Africa.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.

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