Power distributors urged to invest

3 May 2007

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has released the findings of an audit into 11 major electricity distributors in the country, recommending that the government spend more than R400-million on refurbishing of infrastructure.

The energy regulator was forced to intervene following a spate of power outages across the country in 2005, blamed mainly on the poor state of South Africa’s electricity distribution infrastructure.

Addressing the media in Pretoria on Wednesday, Nersa chairperson Collin Matjila said the problem was especially severe in smaller municipalities. “They are heavily under-resourced and stressed in the delivery of the necessary levels of service,” he said.

The audit has also found that few formal systems were in place to ensure proper maintenance of electricity infrastructure, with much reliance being placed on individual engineers.

“This adds great risk when individuals leave the service, at the same time limiting the introduction of modern, innovative technologies and systems, thus ensuring that these utilities remain static,” Matjila said.

The audit found that the 11 distributors needed to spend R431-million on their electricity networks.

The distibutors were those in Ekurhuleni (East Rand), Tshwane (greater Pretoria), Cape Town, Ethekwini (greater Durban), Emfuleni (greater Vereeniging), Mangaung (greater Bloemfontein), Msunduzi (greater Pietermaritzburg), the Nelson Mandela Metro (greater Port Elizabeth) and Rustenburg, as well as Eskom’s southern and north-west regions.

Matjila said, however, that the energy regulator was encouraged by the well designed and installed energy networks in the country’s metropolitan municipalities.

“The electricity transmission and distribution systems operated by the metros are generally of a well-designed and serviceable state,” he said.

Eskom is currently on a skills development drive, aiming to attract up to 400 new engineers, with more than 200 already hired. The state-owned electricity company is also seeking to lure older engineers out of retirement to train apprentices.

Source: BuaNews