Illegal connections, criminality leads to load reduction in some areas

Illegal connections, criminality leads to load reduction in some areas

Eskom has announced that it will resume load reduction in some areas due to network overloading with the onset of winter.

Load reduction is implemented in areas when the demand is higher than the infrastructure – such as transformers – is able to handle. It is not load shedding.

Eskom Group Executive for Distribution, Monde Bala, explained that overloaded transformers can leave customers without electricity supply for an extended period.

“Overloaded transformers as a result of electricity theft present a serious risk to human life. We only implement load reduction as a very last resort for the shortest periods possible after all other options have been exhausted.

“A transformer damaged by overloading can leave an area without power for up to six months, protecting Eskom’s assets is in the best interest of all South Africans,” Bala said.

The power utility said the challenge is particularly prevalent in supply areas in Limpopo, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and North West.

According to Eskom, overloading mainly occurs during peak morning and evening times.

“About 94% of the total overloaded transformers are in these areas as a result of electricity theft and indiscriminate use of electricity.

“Despite continued public information campaigns to customers about the implications of electricity theft activities, Eskom has no other option but to implement load reduction to protect its assets from repeated failures and explosions, which pose a risk to human live,” Eskom said.

Mitigating risk

Eskom revealed that some 2111 transformers across the country are “frequently overloaded” and are at risk of damage with a further 900 already awaiting replacement.

The power utility called on consumers to heed warnings regarding the risks of overloading.

“Eskom’s electricity infrastructure is designed to handle loads based on known demand, which is legally connected customers and actual sales for specific areas.

“Exceeding these loads through electricity theft can overload the equipment, potentially causing explosions that may lead to electrical fires in the surrounding areas. Thus, overloading presents a serious risk to lives and equipment, particularly mini-substations and transformers.

“To prevent load reduction and abrupt loss of supply, Eskom has launched the ‘Save Your Transformers, Save Lives’ campaign that urges customers to reduce their consumption, ensure that the electricity they consume is legally connected, paid for, purchased from legal vendors, and to report illegal activities,” Eskom said.

According to Eskom, the winter season presents a particular challenge due to “exponential increase in energy demand in areas prone to electricity theft, as electricity is often used indiscriminately, leading to network failure due to extreme overloading”.

“Over time, Eskom has invested resources and increased capacity to meet the exponential demand in these areas prone to overloading. Despite these investments, the demand has continued to grow, rendering the situation unsustainable.

“Eskom has been engaging with various communities, educating them on the safe and efficient use of electricity. In some areas, Eskom has removed illegal connections; however, network overloading persists,” the power utility said.

The electricity supplier explained that, regretfully, paying customers cannot be excluded from load reduction.

“While Eskom aims to exclude paying customers from load reduction, the network’s configuration does not allow for dedicated supply lines to paying customers, making it impractical to service them separately.

“To prevent load reduction and abrupt loss of supply, customers are urged to reduce their consumption, ensure that the electricity they consume is legally connected, paid for, and purchased from legal vendors, and to report illegal activities. Additionally, customers are encouraged to switch off non-essential appliances, such as heaters and geysers, and use alternative heating methods,” the power utility said.

To report criminal activities such as illegal connections, theft and vandalism that can damage transformers, mini-substations and other electricity infrastructure contact the Eskom Crime Line on 0800 112 722. – SAnews.gov.za

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