WHILE the 2008 load-shedding programme had ceased, many households and businesses continued to experience unplanned power cuts owing to poor electricity infrastructure.
This was a concern raised by the deputy director-general at the Department of Energy, Jacob Mbele, yesterday.
He was speaking during the second day of the electricity conference hosted by the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities of Southern Africa at the CSIR.
Mbele, who spoke on behalf of Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe, said challenges faced by the electricity distribution sector required urgent attention. “A study conducted by the Department of Energy in 2014 indicated a backlog in municipal electricity infrastructure maintenance, estimated at around R35billion. This figure doubles if we include the backlog in areas serviced by Eskom,” he told delegates.
Mbele spoke about incidences of vandalism, calling on law-enforcement agencies to mete out harsher sentences to punish the perpetrators.
The shortage of women in the energy sector also came under the spotlight at the conference.
Punki Majola, senior engineer at Ekurhuleni Municipality, expressed disappointment that there was little progress made in terms of advancing opportunities for women entering the industry. She said the situation needed to change to accommodate more women in decision-making positions.
“The training of women to compete with their male counterparts is a challenge. Action needs to be taken to ensure that women occupy positions of decision-making,” she said.
Electrical engineer Seydou Kane said corporate companies had an obligation to mirror the representation of women in their organogram. He said women at his multinational technology company Eaton constituted 70% of its workforce in Morocco.
Participant Gugu Motsotso talked about women entrepreneurship, saying the challenge for having few women in the sector was at times due to a lack of interest in engineering.
However, she said the challenge could be overcome by exploring ways of rekindling the interest of women in the sector.
A senior official at Ethekwini, Veer Ramnarain, said the recruitment of women in the public sector was critical in dealing with shortages of females in decision-making positions.
He said his municipality had worked out a plan to give bursaries to potential students interested in engineering.
The municipality worked closely with schools and provided pupils with opportunities to interact with city engineers.
Lomile Modiselle, acting director of electricity at the City of Tshwane, encouraged women to aim high in their careers.
She related how she started her studies in electricity at a Further Education Training College.
She was granted an apprenticeship in the City and she furthered her studies in 2007 through the assistance of the City’s bursary scheme to achieve her engineering degree.
“As women in the industry we always feel like we are not good enough because we are in the minority,” she said.
Entrepreneur Yolanda Mabutho, who resigned from Eskom in 2017, challenged women to enter into business and contribute towards economic growth of the country.
She said her company, specialising in clean energy, wanted to give women opportunities to prove themselves in the sector.
She challenged big corporates to identify opportunities and invest in women-owned businesses.
“We can’t always say that the government is failing what are we doing as women?” Mabutho asked.