Joburg councillors want residents to “adopt” the power stations in their suburbs.
This follows numerous outages during the past year blamed on vandalism and vagrancy, especially at stations in the northern and western suburbs.
Tim Truluck, councillor for Ward 117 (Parkhurst/Rosebank), said most of the outages appeared to be due to vandalism and theft, particularly theft of the neutral cable inside sub-stations, which causes a power surge when removed. Such surges damage household appliances and equipment connected to the grid.
“It would appear that our sub-stations make such easy targets because they are not well monitored or secured by City Power.
“I often receive reports of sub-stations or mini-sub doors left open, locks broken off the sub-station gates, sub-stations inhabited by vagrants, or long grass and overgrowth making sub-stations an easy place for criminals to hide around,” he said.
Truluck has started asking residents to “adopt” sub-stations and keep him supplied with photos and messages about the condition of the sub-stations, as well as alerting the police and security companies whenever they see suspicious activity around sub-stations.
“I would like to appeal to all residents to get involved in this project and help protect us from falling victim to more outages and damages,” he said.
Ironically, the neutral cable which the thieves steal from the sub-stations fetches only R50 from scrap-metal dealers, yet the surge such thefts cause leads to hundreds of thousands of rand in damage.
In its quarterly report for July to September, released last month, City Power admitted problems with sub-stations.
The report said brick electricity kiosks were being used as illegal accommodation by vagrants, and that they were “prone to theft and vandalism which result in voltage surges damaging customers’ appliances and equipment. This results in City Power receiving many claims for damaged appliances.”
The City Power report lists these problems:
* City Power had a deficit of R484 million. The utility was meant to show a profit of R87m.
* Service charges were down by R659m because of a decrease in electricity use, unbilled customers and households bypassing prepaid meters.
* Salaries were under budget by R15m because of unfilled vacancies and overtime was over budget by R16m because of increases in callouts and maintenance.
* Illegal connections are overloading the network, and when they are removed most are reconnected by the following day.
* Theft and vandalism continue to cause financial and outage problems.
* There is poor co-ordination between the call centre and City Power. Calls reported are not received and “management receive reports directly from the public and councillors and the process of reporting is not followed optimally”.
* There is a backlog in respect of resolving public liability claims.
* The average age of infrastructure is 45 years.
The City Power report includes these successes:
* There have been successful engagements with customers in Devland, Alexandra and River Park over prepaid meters.
* There has been an improvement in meter reading, with readings on manually read meters improving from 82.7 percent to 86.3 percent
* More than 11 000 new meters were installed, including prepaid and smart meters.
* A total of 12 643 meter audits were completed as part of the smart meter programme.
* A total of 10 725 prepaid records were audited and 5 197 meters and customer details were updated as part of the prepaid data clean-up programme.