Expert: Power network collapse looming

Expert: Power network collapse looming

2012-07-26 22:15

Parliament - South Africans could face more power cuts, as the distribution grid will gradually collapse from 2015 unless a maintenance backlog is addressed, an expert said on Thursday.

"We are three years away from collapse," Deon Louw, the deputy director of electro-technical services in Overstrand municipality, Western Cape, told MPs.

"It is going to collapse in stages, as some parts are older than others. We will see power failures."

Louw told public hearings on the electricity distribution industry - hosted by Parliament's portfolio committee on energy - that the lifespan of a distribution network was 50 years, and said the various components of South Africa's had an average age of 47 years.

He said power failures were often wrongly blamed on Eskom's generation capacity, when in fact the fault lay with the ageing distribution infrastructure.

Two days of hearings have seen experts reiterate warnings that the country faced a R35bn backlog in distribution maintenance, of which R10bn was needed on the Eskom network, while the rest referred to municipal networks.

But Louw said municipalities often "stole" from their maintenance funds to cover other unforeseen expenses, such as higher than expected salary increases.

"That is often the one area where they can reduce expenditure."

Louw said at the moment R3.5bn was spent annually on ongoing maintenance, but the figure needed to increase to R6.5bn.

His comments added to a bleak portrayal by other presenters in two days of hearings, of how poorly managed municipalities failed to perform maintenance though power distribution was a revenue source.

The National Planning Commission proposed that national energy regulator Nersa take a driving role in redressing the situation, pointing out that it had the means to force municipalities to act.

But the regulator cautioned that the sanctions it could impose on errant municipalities, including revoking their distribution licences, were firstly not a fast cure, and secondly not always realistic.

Nersa's Thembani Bukula said municipalities did not fail to perform maintenance purely because they lacked expertise or funding.

"Sometimes there is no alternative to switch to [other parts of the network] while performing maintenance on one part of the network, or then you lose supply," Bukula said.

He said though Nersa could ringfence funding for maintenance, this did not guarantee the money would be spent for that purpose.

The hearings saw a call for a one percent levy to be charged on distribution to add to funding, to ease the backlog, but also a warning from business against further price escalation.

Nedbank chief economist Dennis Dykes said businesses had gone from spending 5% of their budget on electricity in 2005/06 to 11% at present, and if tariffs increased as expected this would reach 15% in five years' time.

Thus pressed, companies would save on labour and this would impact on employment, he said.

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  • Gerald Jordaan - 2012-07-27 00:53

    Please God let the ANC also collapse !!

      squeegee.pilot - 2012-07-27 07:11

      Great, this is all I needed to hear this morning.

      werner.nel.984786 - 2012-07-27 07:18

      You mean that the R10Bil that Eskom received over the last 15 years for maintenance has been misappropriated by our government?!! I find this very hard to believe! Surely the management in charge of our national power grid are individuals with the highest qualifications and experience, who diligently work each and every day planing, strategizing and executing growth plans and maintenance schedules. (For all those thumbs down idiots out there the above comment contains sarcasm)

      martin.britchford.5 - 2012-07-27 09:08

      HOW WILL THEY BAKE CAKE .. GRRR caps lock, my mortal enemy

  • Billy - 2012-07-27 01:28

    so. where is all the money going to when i buy electricity? why are our neighbouring countries buying electricity from us at a lower rate than WE can buy it for. oh wait, its late and im not reading well. "But Louw said municipalities often "stole" from their maintenance funds to cover other unforeseen expenses, such as higher than expected salary increases" 5.5% maybe?

      gerd2 - 2012-07-27 06:27

      @Billy The money is going perhaps into staff parties

      jo.barton.92 - 2012-07-27 07:41

      Why they don't subcontract the outstanding work to smaller electrical companies who are suitably qualified?

  • Shaun Geldenhuys - 2012-07-27 02:29

    atleast im of the grid

      pat.torngren - 2012-07-27 02:52

      You're "off the grid"? How did you do it?

      nompumelelo.madonda - 2012-07-27 07:40

      How did you do it Shaun? Is it possible with the current municipal by-laws? Desperately seeking an alternative...

  • pat.torngren - 2012-07-27 02:51

    The logical and environment-friendly solution would be to get solar panels onto the roofs of every house and business in South Africa who could afford them (subsidising them if needed) and get them feeding the surplus electricity into the central power-grid (as is being done successfully by some countries overseas). This is the only "sustainable" solution.

  • piet.boerie - 2012-07-27 04:49

    Afirmative action has driven many well qualified people to seek work overseas. Australia, US,UK, Arab counntries and especially the oil industry. Dont believe me, ask them yourselves. Now in theorey if the education system worked we would see the next generation of skilled people entering into the system. They have not and this is now adding a massive burden on the economy. It takes years to add skill to the work pool. When we lose each skilled person its huge affect in the economy. So AA is realyy hurting the economy.

      jo.barton.92 - 2012-07-27 07:07

      There are lots of skilled people still left in the country. Unfortunately they are being overlooked for less skilled AA candidates. There needs to be a skill transfer by means of proper apprenticeship schemes etc.The government needs to make it attractive again by giving tax incentives etc.

  • Gerda Malherbe - 2012-07-27 05:19

    Fat, lazy and incompetent municipal managers and their cronies are stealing, AGAIN, by using maintenance funds for salaries, cell phones, Johnny Walker and german cars. May they all burn in hell for what they are doing to our country

  • Kevin - 2012-07-27 05:37

    South Africa's problem - cadre deployments - incompetence, over paid, unproductive and the entitlement mentality - as Comrade Gwede rightfully states - this happens when you take the mice of the bush and put them in charge of the cheese factory.....!

  • Vince.York - 2012-07-27 05:44

    When you come from a background where the priority of the day is to supervise cows and prevent them from straying into the path of a speeding train, then power grids take on an entirely meaningless dimension. It's very much like being able to wake up in totally undesirable conditions, and simply accept them as normality, do nothing about it, AND step right over it as if it does not exist, meanwhile it is up to your knees = = and yet it IS the opportunity to change your circumstance in itself.

      nompumelelo.madonda - 2012-07-27 07:35

      Well stated! Sad as it may sound... It is true and my worry is how do you make that MIND SHIFT? Embarrassing but a reality...

  • chris.cunning.14 - 2012-07-27 07:04

    Nice, happy to read how funds are getting stolen. How there's a massive lack of planning. Everyone for themselves!

  • sisie.indola - 2012-07-27 07:17

    And they still want an increase - for what may i ask? The only thing this government is qualified to do is steal, rob, party and the only person who they think about are themselves - electing public who the f*** are they, and do they really care - oh give them another Bells - these incompetent, lazy, slobs with no morals, ethics, honor and honesty.

  • max.maxwell - 2012-07-27 07:18

    Are the ANC determined to push us back into the Dark Ages, where they would feel more at home? Incompetent morons!

  • derrico.heus - 2012-07-27 07:19

    When this government stops using failed policies like bee, and employ on the basis of merit, things could change. Sadly the anc fill their ranks with substandard easily corrupted officials. This government are pushing this country to complete collapse.

  • J.Stephen.Whiteley - 2012-07-27 07:27

    The work simply cannot be left to Municipalities.

  • Mark - 2012-07-27 07:32

    "I can't send my car in for a service as I use it every day." hmmm.

  • theo.joubert.37 - 2012-07-27 07:48

    It is a well known fact that most of our municipalities are run by incompetent, political appointees that stuff their own pockets and does not care about service delivery. These managers steal municipalities bankrupt, and when caught gets a golden handshake or deployed elsewhere. I am therefore not surprised to hear that the grid is falling apart at municipal level. It is shocking to hear NERSA's comment to this. NERSA is supposed to enforce the terms and conditions as determined by law of licences issued to municipalities. They are not willing or are unable to do this. MR Thembani Bukula are making a feeble attempt of an axcuse in this article. There are a number of steps that NERSA can take to ensure that municipalities keep to licence terms and conditions. Nl. they can revoke the licence. According to law it is a criminal offence for a licence holder not to comply with the licence terms and conditions. I have not heard of any case against any municipality in this regard yet!!!! NERSA is failing us the consumer, they are not fulfilling the mandate given to them by law to protect us from municipalities or for that matted any other licensee.

      john.rattey - 2012-07-27 08:53

      Theo, don't you see it? There is no difference. The anc, nersa, eskom are all one, each serving the other's purpose. The purpose being to control as much money as possible. Once you have control you do with it what you like. Eskom remain a dark hole cloaked in secrecy.

  • cathygradwell.naude - 2012-07-27 07:49

    So the increases are really to cover money moved over to fund "higher than expected salary increases" not electricity! Nothing new then. Bring on the gas!

  • theo.joubert.37 - 2012-07-27 08:04

    I am a small business owner and my electricity bill increased from about R2500 in 2008 to R13000 currently. That is 5 times more then 4 years back. Then on 1 July they had a system fault and I was charged R2 per unit. As a result I started to investigate the tariffs they charged us for the past 3 years. What I discovered was shocking. Our municipality over the past few years implemented tariffs and price increases that was far above the tariffa approved by NERSA. After I applied the NERSA approved tariffs to my electricity usage during the past 3 years i found that the municipality overcharged me with a staggering R211000. this amount could change since the municipality up to now could not supply me with usage statements according to their system. I have started legal action to recover the amount they overcharged me. My question now is where was NERSA the past few years, how do they let something like this happen? Is NERSA yet another example of a State Institution that is incompetent? Should the general public not be informed of the approved tariffs? I had to search on the internet to get these tariffs, and could not find the tariffs for 2012/2013 and 2008/2009. These were obtained from NERSA.

  • jeanne.stemmet - 2012-07-27 08:07

    ...and Chancellor House laughs all the way to the Bank - again and again. Tenders - the gift (from the ANC to the ANC) that keeps on giving...

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