Steenbras Upper dam File photo: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – From next week – until May next year – Capetonians can no longer count on not having to endure Stage 2 load shedding or worse.

Eskom unexpectedly introduced Stage 2 load shedding on Wednesday and then on Friday morning – after a major setback at the Medupi power station in Limpopo – the power utility was forced to continue with Stage 2 after announcing on Thursday evening that Stage 1 would be implemented.

Cape Town has been one of the only places in South Africa to avoid Stage 2 load shedding this week, thanks to the spare generation capacity from the Steenbras dam.

Being the only city in the country that has a dam with hydropower, City-supplied customers have been subjected to only Stage 1 load shedding.

However, according to mayoral committee member for energy Phindile Maxiti, planned maintenance of the Steenbras dam plant starts from next week and is expected to continue until May 2020.

"The necessary maintenance was planned for this period as electricity usage is lower at this time of the year, which would ideally have had a minimal impact on City-supplied customers. 

"But, unfortunately should load shedding continue in the weeks and months ahead, the City will be unable to assist its customers with additional generation capacity," said Maxiti.

The City insists it is vital for the national government to open up the electricity generation environment, if cities are to be able to reduce carbon emissions and if the security of the power supply is to be achieved.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, the DA Western Cape leader, said this week: "Eskom has been holding the people of South Africa ransom for far too long and the national government continues to reward their inability to effectively manage the state-owned enterprise.

"The City of Cape Town has demonstrated that there are alternatives to producing power. Through the Steenbras hydro-electric power scheme, the City is able to build up additional capacity.

"Though this is one way to soften the blow of Eskom’s failure, the City has also taken the Minister of Energy and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa to court to allow municipalities to purchase energy from Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

"The monopoly Eskom holds over energy in our country is a major part of the problem – there is no competition to keep them accountable.

"With no prior notice Eskom has cut the power, leaving thousands of students unable to write their final exams, preventing small businesses from operating and sending families into a frenzy to plan for the inevitable moment when the lights go out."

Cape Times