PORT Alfred and Alexandria could face load shedding as a “last resort” if the household geyser ripple control system is not adequate in controlling power usage.
The municipality’s electricity supplier, Manelec Services, has warned residents of Port Alfred and Alexandria (the only two towns in Ndlambe not supplied directly by Eskom) not to tamper with their geyser ripple control switches as Ndlambe battles with the constraints on electricity supply.
Manelec manager JF “Popeye” Steyn said Manelec workers had encountered widespread tampering with the ripple control switches when they responded to call-outs, especially in Wentzel Park, Alexandria.
“We find out the switches have been disconnected when people call about power outages or there is a request to install a pre-paid meter and we remove the cover of the electrical board and see there has been tampering,” said Steyn.
He said it was now compulsory for every home to have a ripple control switch and the municipal by-laws provided for a R2 500 fine for tampering and to reconnect the switch.
DA councillor Genevieve Cannon, who lives in Alexandria, was surprised to hear that tampering with ripple control switches was a problem in Wentzel Park.
“In the past people were stealing electricity, but that’s been sorted out and they’re paying back the municipality” she said.
Steyn said a severe winter was expected which meant an increase in the use of heaters.
“We are therefore fortunate in that we have the ripple control system, which we use to switch the geysers off when necessary and in the process control the load to prevent power outages,” he said.
Until recently, Manelec used to control the ripple system manually, shutting off geysers between 8-10am and 6-8pm.
They have adjusted the system to automatically detect when to control the load, but Steyn said the automatic system will invariably switch off geysers between those same peak hours, and the shutdown could last longer.
“Sometimes geysers have stayed off as late as 1pm (from the morning shutdown),” he said. “But the biggest peak time is at night, when you find parents are bathing their kids.”
Port Alfred guest house owner and Sunshine Coast Tourism member Mike Beaumont said he had noticed the geyser shutdown system was not regular anymore.
“Sometimes it affects us when guests come in,” he said. “If it’s increasingly used it won’t be good for people in my trade.”
Like many people in Port Alfred, Beaumont said he already turned off his geyser himself during the day, but it was more difficult when they had guests.
He said he generally required hot water between 4-7pm and 6-8am, which coincided with the times the ripple control system kicked in.
Steyn explained the ripple control system was used to control the electrical load in town to prevent Port Alfred system tripping the Eskom feeders.
“Tripping Eskom out is subject to a heavy fine, and we therefore appeal to consumers to exercise patience in the rare cases of cold water,” he said.
Manelec will be conducting an audit of the relays controlling all geysers to ensure that the relays are functioning properly.
“It is compulsory for all premises to be connected to the system, therefore relays will be installed at premises not presently connected,” said Steyn.
“Unfortunately the alternative to the ripple relay system is load shedding, which would be unfortunate and hopefully the last resort.”
He said Eskom had been unable to increase the electricity supply to Port Alfred for the past four years.
Port Alfred is presently allocated 7.6mva of power by Eskom, but the parastatal has undertaken to provide more by October or November – up to 9mva, said Steyn.
“To give an indication how much electricity demand has grown, 11 years ago Port Alfred was using just 3mva,” he said.