Prepare for more power failures

SOME residents of the metro experienced an electricity failure in various parts of Port Elizabeth over the past weekend, and more specifically Humewood, Summerstrand and parts of Walmer (“Humewood in dark as circuit-breaker blows”, The Herald, June 20).

 Discussions with senior staff of the electricity directorate who were directly involved in the area, and who through great ingenuity managed to restore power to those affected areas as soon as possible, informed me the problem occurred as a result of a cable fault.

This happens from time to time, and sometimes, and not particularly only as a result of a man-made induced reason, which in turn caused circuit breakers in a substation to blow.

This may well not be out of the ordinary.

However in this case it is, in that circuit-breakers have a shelf life, and as and when used in times of switching, deteriorate over the years, and as most things, these need to maintained, and eventually replaced.

These and a great number of others in the hundreds of substations within the metro are not being replaced and this type of problem will happen more frequently!

Further enquiries have revealed that a maintenance report, submitted last year to the metro council, has highlighted the problem of the lack of maintenance of these substations and the need to replace capital equipment in them on an on-going basis. The cost for the replacement of this type of equipment was estimated to be R600-million over a 10-year period, as per a proper maintenance programme to keep power to the whole of the metro through these substations.

Residents don’t need to be reminded about the substation along the William Moffett blowing when Eskom introduced “blackouts” to various parts of the metro, which caused power failures to large parts of Port Elizabeth for days, three years ago, was also due to old and ill-maintained equipment.

Damage to the substation that caused this recent loss of power was the second substation to blow in the metro this year, due to the lack of finances being made available to the engineers to undertake what is considered essential. The estimated cost of restoring power to these areas over this weekend is R1-million, and still climbing, to bring the situation back to its status quo.

Residents must be aware that the occurrence of this situation will steadily increase as inadequate provision is made on the ANC-led council’s budget to meet the maintenance of this infrastructure and other services such as roads, storm water, sewerage and water.

This council cannot afford to embark on constructing new developments without maintaining the current assets it has, worth billions of rands, and believe this form of folly will not catch up on them. You and I, the ratepayers, will be called upon to bail them out!

Looking at the current proposals for the 2011/2012 budget, the prospects look bleak (or is that dark?)

Gavin Flanagan, DA spokesperson, infrastructure, engineering and energy committee, Port Elizabeth

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