City contingencies continue to mitigate against future Eskom failures
26 March 2019
While our residents have been given some relief with Eskom’s announcement of the suspension of load-shedding operations, great damage has been done due to the power utility’s inability to provide a stable electricity supply.
The City is duty-bound to shed electricity as dictated by Eskom. We tried, as far as possible, to inform our customers as timeously as possible of when load-shedding would affect them.
Uncertainty around energy supply and security remains.
The City continues its fight to decentralise energy supply in South Africa to break the monopoly that Eskom holds over electricity generation and supply.
We await feedback on our request for the North Gauteng High Court to treat the pending court matter between the City, the Minister of Energy and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) as urgent. This is so that the City, and other municipalities across South Africa, can be allowed to purchase energy from independent power producers (IPPs). Currently, this is not allowed.
We are doing everything possible to move away from the sole reliance on Eskom for our energy needs while at the same time trying to become more resilient and sustainable through the use of cleaner energy, such as renewable and gas-fired resources.
Load-shedding did impact on some City services and much work was done to minimise the impacts where possible. The City continues to put measures in place to reduce the impact on services and its operations in the event of load-shedding being implemented again and in light of continued energy supply uncertainty. As always, we encourage our residents to remain energy-wise.
In light of continued energy insecurity and uncertainty, please see City contingencies and tips for residents going forward:
Energy and Climate Change Directorate
Increase of nuisance tripping and prolonged outages
When power is restored after load-shedding, nuisance tripping sometimes occurs. This is when the power is restored to an area and fails to come back on in some parts. The power outage often goes unreported because residents assume that it is due to load-shedding. If customers experience an outage at an unscheduled time, or the electricity supply remains off for longer than the period specified in the schedule, please SMS the details to the City’s Technical Operations Centre on 31220.
In the event of load-shedding happening again, residents are encouraged to reduce the risk and occurrence of nuisance tripping by switching off appliances, including geysers, air conditioners and pool pumps prior to load-shedding and leaving one light on to indicate the return of the supply.
City teams always try their best to respond as soon as possible and within available capacity when a call is logged that an outage is carrying on for longer than the specific timeframe that has been indicated by Eskom for load-shedding. Service requests increased over the period and sometimes there were unavoidable delays. We thank our residents in advance for their understanding.
The City will continue to do its best to notify its customers of potential load-shedding as soon as Eskom notifies the City.
Spare generation capacity – City-supplied areas
In the lower stages of load-shedding, the City is often able to lessen the impact of load-shedding on its residents. For instance, if Eskom announces Stage 2, the City can often assist with additional capacity and therefore City-supplied customers (those who get their electricity from the City and not Eskom as indicated on the bill they receive every month) would experience only Stage 1. The scheme is currently undergoing planned and necessary maintenance. The work was planned for this part of the year when electricity usage is lower than in winter. The work will continue until 30 April 2019.
The City deployed the use of gas turbines as a limited intervention in an effort to assist residents and businesses that is why recently, the City was able to keep City-customers on Stage 1 and not Stage 2 if applicable at times. This is a limited intervention and most applicable at lower stages of load-shedding. It is not utilised as a rule but rather as the exception.
This forms part of broad contingency planning efforts that continue to be under way in light of the energy supply uncertainty.
3. Curtailment to assist drivers of the economy – commercial and industrial sectors
The City’s Electricity Generation and Distribution Department implemented a load curtailment programme to assist qualifying very large businesses to reduce their load on the system. Curtailment, when applicable, is done on a case-by-case basis. Very large users therefore reduce their load to a required level.
4. How does the City implement load-shedding?
Load-shedding is implemented according to our load-shedding schedule which lives on www.capetown.gov.za/loadshedding. When the City is directed to reduce electricity consumption, or is warned that this may be necessary, it is announced on our website as well as on the Eskom web page. This information enables customers to plan in the event that load-shedding should take place.
Please note that pockets of the City may be excluded from load-shedding in terms of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa regulation NRS048-9.
Where possible, the City does exclude major hospitals, major central business districts and areas where there are major crowds gathered for specific events.
Public safety is the prime consideration when it comes to excluding areas at times from load-shedding as well as the impact on transport due to extreme traffic congestion caused by commuters moving into and outside of CBD areas.
Public safety is also the big concern for certain big public events and these events have been excluded where possible.
The City also allows curtailment where large industrial areas may be exempted if they reduce their load by specific amounts for the entire duration of load-shedding. This could affect some residential areas where load curtailments customers are located and reduce the impact on load-shedding on them.
Network and load considerations will dictate and it is an intricate and considered operation which balances many considerations.
Many public lights remain on to mitigate the occurrence of electricity theft and vandalism of infrastructure
5. Be prepared
Residents can help avoid load-shedding or reduce the impact of load-shedding in future by reducing electricity usage at home and at the office, and encouraging friends and family to do the same. You can start by doing the following:
Switching off what you don’t need – this is the golden rule when it comes to saving electricity
Delaying switching on lights and appliances until after the peak periods (between 17:00-21:00) whenever possible
Switching off your pool pump, geyser and other large electrical equipment
Adjusting air conditioners
Retrofitting your homes and businesses with energy-efficient lighting
Visiting the Saving Electricity website for more tips to save electricity.
In order to be best prepared, residents should think about:
Communication: ensure that your cell phone / laptop / tablet and radio are always fully charged when power is available. This will allow you to be able to communicate with friends and family during load-shedding
Transport: make sure that your vehicle always has fuel in the tank as most petrol stations are unable to pump fuel during power outage
Cash: Keep some cash on you as ATMs cannot operate without electricity
Security and safety: backup batteries for electrically operated gates, garage doors and security systems should be in a good condition and be able to last through periods of load-shedding. Store temporary lighting such as battery-powered torches, gas lamps and candles in places where they will be easy to find in the dark
If you do not have a gas stove, prepare meals before the power is scheduled to be switched off. Boil water in your kettle and keep it in thermos flasks for hot drinks. You can also use an insulating cover on teapots, other pots and pans to keep drinks and meals warm.
6. What has the City done so far to become more energy secure?
Energy2040 Goal: The City has demonstrated its commitment to accelerated climate action by signing the C40 Deadline 2020: Climate Action Planning in Africa and the C40 South Africa Buildings Programmes. This goal models a more resilient, resource efficient and equitable future for Cape Town; it commits the City to diversifying Cape Town’s energy supply and of becoming significantly more energy efficient and reducing carbon emissions.
Lower Carbon City Development: To achieve lower carbon city development and growth, significant efficiencies need to be realised across all sectors. With the transport sector in Cape Town driving energy consumption growth in the future, it is critical to reduce the number of private transport trips and travel distances. The City is trying to do this through transit-oriented development (densification around transport routes and nodes), travel demand management, higher vehicle occupancy and improved accessible, affordable, safe and user friendly public transport.
Carbon Neutrality by 2050: The City is currently in the process of building its evidence base towards planning for carbon neutrality by 2050 by updating the City’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory and updating its energy futures modelling.
Feasibility of small City-owned renewable energy generation plants: The City is exploring the feasibility of building a fleet of smaller City-owned renewable generation plants and developing a ‘wheeling’ framework which will allow independent generators to sell electricity directly to electricity consumers embedded in the City’s electricity grid.
Cleaner supply: The City and US Trade and Development Agency have signed a R12,7 million donation agreement for a study to be conducted into the usage options of natural gas.
Waste-to-energy: Projects are being developed as part of the City’s Integrated Waste Management Strategy. Flaring of methane at the first WTE project (1MVA) kicked off in March 2018 at the Coastal Park landfill site. This process destroys the methane, which has a global warming potential of approximately 25 times greater than carbon dioxide that is present in landfill. Not only does this offset carbon emissions, but gas that is converted to energy can be used to fuel a variety of operations. Similar work is underway at two other landfill sites.
Small-scale embedded generation/PV: The City laid the foundation for the growth of small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) in Cape Town by implementing a policy and instituting SSEG tariffs. The City is working to increase the volume of SSEG installed by addressing existing barriers such as the cost of smart meters and lobbying for gaps in building wiring codes which do not fully cover all aspects of grid connected small-scale embedded generation to be closed, among others.
Electricity Savings Campaign: This has been running since 2009 and targets residential and commercial consumers. It aims to reduce city-wide electricity consumption and the related carbon emissions, and to increase energy security through a wide range of behavioural and technological changes. The City also coordinates a public-private Energy Water and Waste Forum for the commercial sector to drive resource efficiency in this sector.
Low carbon new build programme: This programme focuses on developing and implementing transformational policies and programmes towards improving energy efficiency performance and resource efficiency to ensure that all new buildings are designed and built to be carbon neutral, and that retrofits of existing buildings are as energy efficient as possible.
Energy efficiency in City’s own operations: The City is committed to improving the management of energy use in all municipal operations, to improve resource efficiency, reduce its carbon footprint and save money. From 2009 to 2016 the programme saved over 102 000 MWh, which translates into savings of R180 million and 101 000 metric tonnes CO2e.
Safety and Security Directorate
The City’s Traffic Service has worked hard to minimise the impact that load-shedding had on traffic volumes around the city, particularly during peak periods.
While many traffic lights have utility power supply systems that allow them to be operational during load-shedding, this is not the case across the city.
To this end, the Department identified 74 major intersections that are flagged for point-duty by Traffic, Metro Police and Law Enforcement departments when the areas in question are experiencing load-shedding.
The City has tried its utmost to ensure that affected intersections are managed, but this is dependent on staff numbers.
We are looking at improving our systems where possible.
Motorists can assist by:
- consulting load-shedding schedules to avoid peak-hour traffic
- finding alternative routes to avoid additional congestion as a result of affected intersections
- adjusting their departure times to miss load-shedding in particular areas
- apply the four-way stop rule when arriving at an intersection where traffic lights are out of order (the first motorist to come to a stop, is the first motorist to drive when it is safe to do so)
- reporting defective traffic lights at major intersections by dialling 021 480 7700 from a cell phone
General safety tips
- Report all emergencies to the 107 Public Emergency Call Centre. Dial 107 from a landline and 021 480 7700 from a cell phone
- Please direct any electricity-related enquiries to the City’s Call Centre on 0860 103 089 or log these online https://eservices1.capetown.gov.za/coct/wapl/zsreq_app/index.html
Water and Waste Directorate
As a measure to increase resilience of water and sanitation supply systems after the 2014/15 load-shedding period, all wastewater treatment plants as well as 85 larger priority water and sewer pump stations were fitted with permanent generators. This effectively means water supply for 85% of residents is unaffected by load-shedding and 90% of the City’s sewage infrastructure is able to function. Provided power outages are of relatively short duration, the coverage for water supply is actually over 95%, as storage reservoirs normally have 48 hours of storage when full.
Because many of the city’s water sources are situated at a higher altitude than the major portion of the metro, large parts of the bulk water supply system can still be effectively operated during load-shedding.
In addition, installed standby power units enable process control systems to remain functioning for an extended period of time.
Some areas on the extremities and high-lying areas of the system could have lower pressure or limited interruptions in water supply.
Properties above the 80m contour line generally require at least one stage of pumping to maintain supply.
Furthermore, some smaller sewer pump stations may overflow when the power goes off. These pump stations are fitted with early warning telemetric alarm systems which assists maintenance staff in preventing or minimising overflows by using mobile generators to power the pumps. However, with severe load-shedding i.e. large areas without power, it is not logistically possible to prevent overflows entirely, in which case the operational teams do their utmost to contain and clean up such flows.
Should recreational water bodies or beaches be detrimentally impacted by such sewage spills the City takes steps to close the water body and alert users about possible health risks through the erection of signage. Residents are however urged to remain proactively cautious and take steps to avoid entering potentially contaminated water bodies until such time as this extended load-shedding period is over.
For any service requests relating to Water and Sanitation residents may contact the City via one of the following channels (although WhatsApp is preferable). Residents should please always remember to take note of the reference number provided.
WhatsApp 063 407 3699
Call 0860 103 089 (choose option 2: water-related faults)
SMS 31373 (max of 160 characters)
Online service request here.
Transport for Cape Town
Due to the uncertainty about Eskom’s energy supply, the City advises MyCiTi commuters to please ensure that they have enough money or Mover points loaded on their myconnect cards at all times.
Best is to check the balance on your card at the information terminal at the station whenever you have an opportunity to do so, and to load money or Mover points long before your credit has run out.
Commuters can also load money or Mover points at cash-accepting ABSA automatic teller machines (ATMs), and we strongly advise passengers to make use of the ATMs where possible.
All 42 MyCiTi stations across Cape Town are fitted with uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to provide stations with electricity in the event of Stage 2 load-shedding. However, the UPSs are under severe strain when electricity supply is interrupted for longer than four hours during a 24-hour period. Meaning, commuters will not be able to load money or Mover points when Eskom implements Stage 4 load-shedding or higher.
The MyCiTi service is operational during power interruptions as the station and platform entrances can be operated manually. It is important though, that commuters remember to tap in and out on the bus by using the on-board validators in the event of an electricity outage.
Commuters can visit the MyCiTi website on www.myciti.org.za for regular updates; and follow us on Twitter @MyCiTiBus; or phone the Transport Information Centre on 0800 65 64 63 – the TIC is available 24/7.
Load-shedding is an abnormal event, and beyond the City’s control. We advise commuters to follow these steps to limit the inconvenience associated with electricity outages going forward.
Issued by Media Office, City of Cape Town, 26 March 2019