Eskom says illegal connections have damaged hundreds of transformers and mini sub-stations in Gauteng alone.
These connections can often lead to explosions of electrical equipment, particularly when they are overloaded beyond their output capacity.
“In Gauteng, there is currently a backlog of about 455 transformers and mini-substations that must be replaced, all damaged by overloading caused by illegal connections,” the utility said.
This then results in communities being left without electricity until the equipment can be replaced, which comes at a great cost to Eskom.
It explained the average price of a transformer is around R80,000, while a mini substation costs over R300,000.
However, Eskom said more than four months of load reduction has had a significant impact on reducing losses associated with equipment failures.
“Since the introduction of load reduction we have seen a drop of more than 60% in equipment failures,” Eskom said.
In effect, this meant the company has saved millions of rand on replacements because of load reduction.
“The amounts involved are significant when you consider the approximately R1 billion in losses that Eskom suffered in equipment failures in Gauteng alone during 2019/20,” Eskom said.
The video below from Eskom illustrates what illegal connections typically look like.
When you connect your electricity illegally, you’re posing a threat to your neighbours and worse, their children who may be exposed to deadly illegal wires. Be #YourNeighboursKeeper #ElectricitySafetyMonth pic.twitter.com/kEvgKfWbfe
— Eskom Hld SOC Ltd (@Eskom_SA) August 10, 2020
How load reduction works
First introduced back in May, load reduction is now being implemented in various areas on a near-daily basis.
Load reduction typically lasts four hours in peak usage times and typically run between 05:00 and 09:00, or 17:00 to 21:00 in the evening.
It differs from load-shedding as it targets specific areas which are prone to superfluous illegal connections, instead of being implemented on a national scale.
Eskom notifies impacted areas of load reduction via its social media channels. Below is an example of such a notice on Twitter.
Eskom Load Reduction Notice
Date: 27 September 2020#EskomMpumalanga
Please see below provincial statements for details and areas that will be affected today from 17:00 until 22:00 pic.twitter.com/mlTtaLNDh1
— Eskom Hld SOC Ltd (@Eskom_SA) September 27, 2020
Communities stepping up
Eskom added that community members in the affected areas were starting to show interest in working with the utility to resolve the issue of illegal connections.
“While this is work in progress, communities have been coming forward and inviting Eskom to partner with them in removing illegal connections, such as happened at Ixopo in southern KwaZulu-Natal a few weeks ago,” Eskom said.
“There has also been increased activity on Eskom’s crime line, with members of the public offering leads to deal with illegal connections.”
Below are examples of a burning mini sub-station and illegal electricity connections as provided by Eskom on its Twitter profile.