Eskom replaces over 400 transformers damaged by overloading, blames electricity theft

Eskom said it has replaced more than 400 transformers damaged by network overloading since January, and blamed electricity theft for those replacements. Picture: Supplied

Eskom said it has replaced more than 400 transformers damaged by network overloading since January, and blamed electricity theft for those replacements. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 13, 2024


By Simon Majadibodu

Power utility Eskom said that as of now, it has replaced more than 400 transformers that were damaged by network overloading since January, with the majority of these replacements linked to electricity theft.

Eskom said that approximately 2,500 transformers across the country are frequently overloaded and at risk of failing, with 1,000 transformers currently isolated and awaiting replacement.

“Overloaded transformers as a result of electricity theft present a serious risk to human life,” said Agnes Mlambo, acting group executive for Eskom Distribution.

“The time, funds and manpower used to replace these transformers could have been utilised to improve the reliability of our network, electrify more communities, improve the experience of our paying customers and create more jobs.”

She added: “A transformer damaged by overloading can leave an area without power for up to six months, protecting Eskom’s assets is in the best interest of all South Africans.”

With the increase in electricity demand coinciding with declining temperatures, the power utility highlighted a resurgence of network overloading in certain areas due to electricity theft.

According to the power utility there are several types of electricity theft, “Including illegal connections, network equipment theft, vandalism, meter bypasses and tampering, unauthorised network operations and purchasing electricity from illegal vendors”.

Eskom said it has started a campaign called "Save Your Transformers, Save Lives,” aimed at preventing load reduction and sudden supply disruptions.

“The campaign urges customers to reduce their consumption, ensure that the electricity they consume is legally connected, paid for, purchased from legal vendors and report illegal activities,” said Eskom.

Meanwhile, Eskom has emphasised that load reduction is deployed when there's enough electricity, but a transformer is at risk of overloading, whereas load shedding is enacted during periods of insufficient electricity supply.

“It is important to note that load reduction is not load shedding. Load reduction is a proactive measure that Eskom uses to prevent (loss of) human life, and (protect) equipment worth millions of rands, particularly mini-substations, transformers and people’s livelihoods.”

Yesterday, IOL News reported about a fire that broke out at the Zola substation on Wednesday morning, leaving several surrounding areas in Soweto without electricity.

The fire affected power supply in Dobsonville, Emdeni, Jabulani, Moletsane, Mofolo North, Naledi, Tladi, Zola and Zondi.

Earlier on Wednesday, Eskom said: “We are working with the fire department to extinguish the fire so that our technicians can conduct an investigation and assess the extent of the damages.”

Additionally, the power utility said it was also attending to supply interruptions affecting customers in Central Western Jabavu, Dlamini, Jabavu, various zones in Meadowlands, Molapo, Senaoane, and other zones in Pimville.

“The estimated time of restoration is not available at this stage. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes,” said Eskom.