Mayor’s Newsletter for George Herald of 19 January 2023
As we reflect with gratitude on George’s busy holiday season and its benefits for the economy and employment, we are immediately confronted with Eskom’s Stage 6 loadshedding disaster at a time when industry, business and schools are only beginning to return to work after the holidays.
Stage 6 is extremely debilitating for businesses and households alike. Electrical equipment is not designed for ongoing loadshedding and requires ongoing maintenance; diesel costs for generators approximate R120 000 per day; crime and vandalism also thrive under cover of darkness. Water and waste-water networks are constantly at risk. Teams are therefore at full stretch.
In March 2022, Council already took decisions to spend R220m over three years to start providing electricity security. As 8-10% of our bulk purchases of electricity are used on our own municipal infrastructure, we decided to procure Solar PV plants for these installations as a first step towards reducing our reliance on Eskom to avoid Stage 1 of loadshedding with the objective to avoid Stage 2 within the next 2-3 years.
We also decided to procure generators to ensure that important installations could still operate during loadshedding. These include the water and waste- water treatment works as well as key pump stations with many generators already operational. Uninterrupted power supply units were installed to ensure that traffic lights at 60 intersections could continue functioning. We have started installing energy efficient streetlights. Extensive preventative maintenance has been undertaken on the electricity network.
The procurement for 1,9MW of Solar PV plants is approaching the construction stage. The environmental approval process for the 9MW plant is underway which should permit construction to commence after July 2023.
It has now become clear that decisions on the early introduction of battery energy storage options are necessary. Technical solutions are being sought to integrate battery energy into sub-stations and the electricity network. The municipality is seeking technical and funding advice from leading specialists.
Various scenarios involving capital expenditure of R750m-R1500m to avoid up to Stages 3-4 of loadshedding within 3 years have been prepared. For George to avoid the implementation of Stage 1 loadshedding, we need to reduce Eskom’s current load availability of 85MW by 13MW. It is clearly in the interests of all citizens that this is urgently achieved. Every household can assist by requesting the municipality to lower their domestic 60amp usage capacity to 40 amps or below. These measures can reduce load capacity by 5-6MW and thereby contribute to bringing forward the avoiding of Stage 1 loadshedding.
As we strive to alleviate the loadshedding burden for users, the municipality will shortly be meeting with large business electricity users to explore innovative and collaborative solutions.
Ald Leon van Wyk
Executive Mayor of George