Durban - Back-to-back floods led to major infrastructural damage of major substations across eThekwini Municipality, meaning the City could not load-shed.
In a joint statement, Eskom and eThekwini Municipality have explained that an extremely severe weather system triggered floods, as over 300mm of rainfall fell over a 24-hour period in KwaZulu-Natal, and government formally declared a National Disaster over the region.
According to the statement, while many municipalities across the province were affected in varying degrees, the eThekwini Municipality took the full force of the storm.
“Key infrastructure including roads, bridges as well as electricity and water infrastructure, have been catastrophically damaged. The scale of the disaster in the eThekwini Municipality is unprecedented,” the statement read.
Eskom and eThekwini Electricity have met on several occasions since the floods to try and manage the risk. At these meetings, the municipality indicated that in an effort to prevent and mitigate any further risk and potential damage to infrastructure, it was unable to discharge load shedding according to the load shedding schedules at the municipality.
Studies indicate that in the aftermath of the disaster, the municipality lost 50% (between 700MW to 800MW) of electrical load on their electrical infrastructure. To date a significant portion of this load has not been restored and will continue to be off the grid until extensive repairs are carried out.
“Importantly, there is agreement that the integrity of the electrical infrastructure was so severely compromised, that if parts of the infrastructure and loads were to trip either through a manual intervention (load shedding) or an electrical fault, it is possible and likely that the Municipality grid could be even more severely damaged, thus further lengthening the duration of the outage,” the two entities said.
“Both Eskom and the municipality are mindful that further electrical damage would severely compromise the municipality’s current water rationing programme that was introduced immediately after the disaster to protect the municipality’s water supply which was also severely damaged during the floods. To date in many areas water supply has not been restored,” the statement read.
As a result, there is agreement that the municipality is operating in an emergency capacity for electrical and water services.
The municipality has agreed on the process for the soonest implementation of load shedding to assist Eskom to mitigate the risk of a National Grid collapse. The municipality has also assessed the long-term strategy to implement load shedding as soon as possible to the equivalent load as was the case before the disaster.
Based on the assessment and discussions, Eskom has accepted the following:
• The municipality’s electrical network and water infrastructure is in an extremely vulnerable state. Additional risk needs to be managed very carefully.
• The municipality is committed to implement load shedding in a safe and sustainable manner in consultation with Eskom when the national grid is at risk.
• If for any reason, after load shedding in the first few instances, a negative impact on the electrical and water infrastructure is deemed to be unacceptably high, the municipality will need to engage with Eskom immediately.
• The municipality has already begun to perform all the required planning to ensure the above can be executed.
• That Nersa (the National Energy Regulator of SA) be kept informed of the status of the eThekwini Municipality network as outlined above.
As a “responsible organ of state”, the municipality agrees on the need to implement load shedding for the purposes of grid stability.
Both Eskom and the municipality commit to assess the progress regularly and to work closely to minimise risk to the municipality and to the grid.
Speaking to eNCA on Monday, the head of electricity in the city, Maxwell Mthembu, said talks were under way to put new load shedding in place without causing further damage to infrastructure in eThekwini.
“We are hoping that this will be done by July 15 and we are aiming that by August 1 we will participate with load shedding. We want to make sure that as much as the city is struggling, we want to participate in helping the national grid,” Mthembu said.