Backyarder customer meter interface
Pic credit: Essential Business Magazine

With efforts to reduce illegal electricity connections and increase access to conventional power, the City of Cape Town’s Electricity Services Department is investing an additional $3.6 million into its backyarder electrification project in 2016/17.

The City explained in a statement that the rollout project provides electricity connections directly to backyarders by installing electricity service connections directly to their dwellings, and includes the replacement and/or upgrading of backbone electricity distribution infrastructure.

Backyarder electrification project

City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Alderman Ernest Sonnenberg, said: ‘As far as we are aware, the City of Cape Town is the only metro in the country that has a programme to extend services to backyard dwellers living on Council-owned properties.

“We have done this in response to the steep growth in the number of backyard dwellers over the past decade, but also taking into account that they are some of the most vulnerable groupings in our city.”

According to the City, to date a total of $16.9 million has been spent on this project from inception up until this financial year.

“The infrastructure is designed in a manner that makes it capable of eventually serving backyard dwellings on private property too, as well as other forecasted growth in areas to ensure effective planning and spend,” the City explained.

Sonnenberg noted: “It’s very difficult to determine who pays what when you have a situation where tenants share the electricity supply with their landlord. If not managed properly, it can lead to people being ripped off but also create unnecessary tension between parties.”

He explained: “A single electricity connection from the main dwelling also makes backyard tenants wholly dependent on the landlord, with the result that they could be left in the dark if no one is home and the electricity runs out.”

Benefits and risk

The City explained that in addition to illegal and safe electricity connections, the risk of fires will be reduced through the installation of safe and legal connections, improved quality of life for beneficiaries, and the restoration of human dignity.

The statement added that the key challenge remains the cost factor in instances where the entire existing electricity network has to be replaced because it cannot cope with the required load increase.

The budget allocation for the current financial year will allow the Electricity Services Department to continue with existing projects in Parkwood and Bonteheuwel, the provision of infill electrification in Hanover Park, and the start of a new project in Kalksteenfontein.