Big concerns over load-shedding-free areas

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse CEO Wayne Duvenage and energy expert Chris Yelland have expressed concerns over how certain areas in South Africa are possibly being exempted from load-shedding without the appropriate regulatory approval.

Duvenage and Yelland’s inputs appeared in an article from the Sunday newspaper Rapport.

The publication wanted to learn more about the increasing prevalence of residents boasting about not getting load-shedding and property agents even advertising certain locations as load-shedding-free.

Regulations that came into effect in 2017 determined that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) must first approve applications for exemption and publish a list of those exempted customers.

However, it told Rapport it had not received any such applications since the regulations came into effect.

In addition, Nersa has acknowledged it has not audited power distributors to determine whether they were implementing load-shedding fairly.

Duvenage believes that the lack of auditing opens up opportunities for corruption, as officials could potentially be bribed not to switch off certain areas.

According to Yelland, it was clear that some areas received either no or little load-shedding, leaving other customers to pick up the slack with excessive and discriminatory levels of load-shedding.

An FF Plus council member in Tshwane, Mark Surgeon, said exemptions in some regions of the metro were “purely administrative” decisions, with no permission required from the council.

The municipality has exempted its Kentron and Wapadrand substations from load-shedding, citing infrastructure vulnerabilities in those areas.

This does not seem to explain the other parts of Centurion that are exempt from load-shedding.

Residents in those areas have speculated it could be related to older infrastructure supplying power to critical services, including the Tshwane municipal buildings, a police station, a fire station, Netcare Unitas hospital, and the Gautrain (including the Centurion station).

Large parts of Hatfield, Arcadia, Sunnyside, and surrounding suburbs, also get exempted.

That is seemingly due to the area housing the Union Buildings, official Presidential Residence, Dirco, and numerous embassies.

The Union Buildings in Pretoria

The topic of load-shedding exemption areas is sensitive among residential power users.

Many living in these areas believe the municipality’s technicians are simply overlooking them and argue that revealing their locations could open them up to scrutiny.

The reality is often more complex, with the reasons often being technical — like a sensitive substation prone to breaking down with frequent switching.

Numerous MyBroadband forum members have previously shared locations where they don’t get load-shedding.

While some have pointed out that their homes were within the vicinity or on the same “line” as a hospital, it should be noted that hospitals don’t automatically get exempted from load-shedding.

Hospitals must maintain their own backup power infrastructure, but some can be exempted from load-shedding with the necessary approval from Nersa.

Under the regulations, the only other entities that may apply for exemptions are critical service providers such as:

  • Railway services
  • Water suppliers
  • Petroleum refineries
  • Coal mines
  • Electricity control centres
  • Deep-mine power suppliers
  • National keypoints (legal experts have argued that the Keypoint Act that defines these areas is unconstitutional)

As is the case with hospitals, all of the aforementioned must have their own backup power. Qualifying entities could, in certain instances, not be exempted from load-shedding if they aren’t fed via a dedicated supply line.

That could call into question the validity of exempting the sizeable suburban area around the Union Buildings.

Importantly, the regulations do not appear to make provision for areas with struggling substations.

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Big concerns over load-shedding-free areas