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PANYAZA LESUFI | Gauteng’s plans to deal with energy crisis

Province adopts five-point strategy to fight high usage of electricity

The protracted electricity crisis has caused significant hardship for the people in our province and has had a detrimental effect on the growth of Gauteng's economy. This unsustainable situation has the potential to break the spine of our resilient provincial economy, which grew by 2.8% last year.

Gauteng to install smart meters to safeguard the system in case of grid overload
Gauteng to install smart meters to safeguard the system in case of grid overload

Power shortages negatively impact several areas, including the availability of healthcare services, food and water, the rate of bankruptcies, the level of crime, and unemployment rates.

According to the Reserve Bank of SA, load shedding costs the economy up to R900m daily. Load shedding also affects inflation because the high operational costs of running diesel generators are passed on to customers and higher rates of wastage lead to potential shortages of supplies.

This does not just undermine the country’s economic growth, but also that of our neighbouring countries.

Since February this year, the Gauteng provincial government has conducted a consultative session with all relevant stakeholders to address this issue, looking for ways to address electricity shortages and guarantee a steady electricity supply.

These coordinated initiatives to address the crisis began with the formation of an energy crisis response team that has been collaborating with the National Energy Committee, local governments and energy experts, as well as the release of R1.2bn in funding, as announced during the state of the province address.

As a result, a five-point strategy was adopted to respond to this crisis: eliminating all illegal power connections, installing smart meters in every home and business, improving revenue collection by cleaning the billing system, cleaning the indigent register and replacing all damaged transformers.

Illegal connections must be removed to effectively control the power supply and guarantee fair and sustainable electricity services for all Gauteng residents. The province plans to include smart grid technology to increase the energy infrastructure’s security and resilience, accelerate the informal settlement communities’ formalisation to enable electrification and reduce unlawful connections. We also want to adopt a Backyard Dwellers Policy to accommodate landlords and tenants.

There is broad agreement that all homes and businesses in Gauteng should install smart meters.

Installing smart meters is a successful way to prevent load shedding and safeguard the system in case of grid overload. Smart meters provide remote load management (load limiting) at homes and businesses when used with a smart billing system. This programme will increase energy efficiency and more precise billing will be possible.

The focus is on implementing an online metering system and better Scada system/Technology by installing WiFi, meter auditing and new meter boxes.

Because accurate data is necessary to bill customers, cleaning the billing system seeks to increase revenue collection. Additionally, it simplifies revenue collection at all levels and helps determine who qualifies as indigent beneficiaries.

The government's policy demands that our community's vulnerable members (the indigents) be provided with free essential services. Unqualifying individuals have marred the indigent register and we intend to clean it up to manage beneficiaries better. We plan to launch this revamped register in January next year.

The allocation of cost-reflective tariffs for the respective categories of consumers needs to be applied diligently to avoid disputes. The province intends to install correct bi-directional smart meters to feed customers with PV systems into the grid and put a moratorium to force customers to register and supply into the grid. We are also considering a debt relief policy for the province.

We have also resolved to undertake the arduous task of fixing all broken There is broad agreement that all homes and businesses in Gauteng should install smart meters. that are a crucial part of delivering electricity to communities. Several transformers were damaged due to overloading in the past two years and some still need to be restored to date.

The affected communities are mainly in the townships and are likely to stay involved even with additional available capacity if the province fails to intervene.

We shall conduct conditional assessments and explore specific conditional grants in dealing with the maintenance and replacement of transformers. An infrastructure audit will be done to improve the capacity to meet the demand, including rolling out a programme for transformer replacement. Department of co-operative governance & traditional affairs will enforce mandatory maintenance, including creating strategic stores of critical components like transformers.

The amount of energy we consume in cities can be significantly reduced through energy efficiency measures, which can also result in cost savings and improvements to the health and welfare of city dwellers. We focus on introducing energy efficiency measures for households, government, business and public infrastructure. 

Our plan to reduce carbon emissions in cities begins with the structures where we live, work and spend most of our time.

We intend to ensure that all stakeholders contribute to developing the Energy Response Strategic framework and formally adopt and develop action plans for implementation. This includes monitoring the performance of the strategic framework.

We intend to strengthen structures and institutional mechanisms to restructure the business model of municipalities to develop energy strategies and plans to integrate energy supply to the national grid and make municipalities viable through available revenue solutions.

There are plans to protect the energy infrastructure, bring our generational plants into production and make available resilient distribution infrastructure. 

The Gauteng government has appointed about 6,000 crime prevention wardens (CPWs) as a provincial law enforcement body that will collaborate with other law enforcement organisations to fight crime, including cable theft and vandalisation of the infrastructure.

  • Panyaza Lesufi is the premier of Gauteng.

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