Pietermaritzburg is investing in electricity infrastructure after outages that have left residents fuming and frustrated business prospects. Picture: Reuters

The Msunduzi Municipality will spend more than R400 million over the next five years to restore its crumbling electricity infrastructure.

About R140 million will be spent stabilising the infrastructure during this financial year.

The city has faced numerous complaints about its unstable electricity supply in the past few years which have been worsening. Recently, there were severe power outages that left residents in the dark for days leading to complaints filed with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).

In a report tabled before the exco members on Thursday, the municipality revealed it will cost close to R730m to fully restore its infrastructure.

The report stated in the 2018/19 financial year that the municipality will spend around R150m, it will spend R200m in the 2019/20 financial year, and R53m the following year.

Brenden Sivparsad, (correct) acting head at electricity the department, said the city had adopted a development plan to address the ageing electricity infrastructure.

He said while they had done some work in stabilising the electricity grid, by investing in some substations, there were still areas that were “volatile”, as some infrastructure was very old, in some case between 30 and 50 years old.

The reports of the upgrades said the priority projects they would be implementing included the upgrade of the Pine Street Substation, which supplies the city’s CBD.

They would also be looking to upgrade the Crossways substation, which supplies the Sweetwaters and the Hilton areas that have been hard hit by the electricity outages.

Sivparsad said the work on these stations could begin around June next year. “The council has approved the funding. We will soon be placing the orders for transformers and other material - these are custom made for a particular area and to make them takes about six months.”

Sivpersad said the municipality was busy recruiting to fill vacancies in the department. “We have a high vacancy rate but we are busy filling that. We should have people starting in a few months - these vacancies are mostly at middle management and some artisans.

“But in the meantime we have a dedicated team and contractors who assist us when the need arises,”  he said.

DA Exco members Jerome Majola said although this should have been done a long time ago, it was better late than never.
“Recently we had a power outage from Sunday to Tuesday but the situation has stabilised a bit."

He said the electricity problems were damaging the city as a potential destination for investments. “If businesses people know there are electricity problems, they will not invest here.”

The Pietermaritzburg business chamber had highlighted the electricity problems as a serious challenge to businesses.