Although Eskom’s CEO, André de Ruyter, announced the implementation of Stage 6 load shedding on Tuesday after threats of further industrial action by Eskom employees, City of Cape Town officials were meeting with colleagues from the City of Johannesburg to discuss how metros in South Africa can end their reliance on Eskom-generated power as soon as possible.
In a press statement, City of Cape Town mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis said that a delegation from the City of Johannesburg, including Councillor Michael Sun, Ms Tshifularo Mashava, acting CEO of City Power, Mr Meyrick Ramatlo, director of energy at City Power and other officials toured the Steenbras Hydro Pumped Storage Scheme, which will be put into full operation as soon as higher stages of load shedding above Stage 4 are announced. This will allow up to two stages of load shedding relief where it is possible.
The City has been “saving” the capacity of Steenbras by not offering residents load shedding relief for the past few days. This is because of the need to urgently use Steenbras at full capacity to protect infrastructure.
Eskom has only implemented Stage 6 load shedding once before, in December 2019. Stage 6 load shedding entails outages of up to four hours at a time, for totals of 10 hours per day.
“Our experience during this previous instance of Stage 6 revealed that critical infrastructure, from electricity assets to water and sanitation plants and facilities and communications towers, is placed under severe threat by such long blackouts,” Hill-Lewis said.
Load shedding Stage 8 is an impending possibility. This will mean serious threats to substations, circuit breakers, wastewater treatment plants, water pumps, cellphone towers and other infrastructure. The long downtime will severely raise the risk of theft and vandalism of copper cables and other assets, the mayor explained.
Both delegations from Cape Town and Johannesburg agree that South African metros have no other option but to end their reliance on Eskom-generated power and implement measures designed to reduce demand.
Hill-Lewis said that “in the course of sharing best practice with Johannesburg colleagues this week, Cape Town will be drawing on Johannesburg’s research and expertise in respect of demand-side management.
“If high stages of load shedding continue, the threat to critical infrastructure and the suffering that will result from economic recession will, in my view, constitute an emergency similar to Cape Town’s 2017/18 drought and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We will seek legal advice on whether it is appropriate to force the City to comply with all of the onerous requirements of procurement processes imposed by national legislation under these emergency circumstances,” the mayor concluded.