As the chilly and wet winter season approaches, it’s time to prepare ourselves for the unique challenges and delights that it brings.
From the brisk air to the rain-soaked streets, Cape Town winter demands our attention and readiness. Here, we explore practical tips to help you navigate the winter months with ease. From maintaining your home and business’ functionality to prioritising safety on the roads, these essential suggestions will ensure you’re well-prepared to go with the flow this winter. Let’s dive in and discover how to make the most of the wet season while keeping everything running smoothly.
Cape Town winter readiness tips
City Update: Top new load-shedding trends impacting Cape Town’s neighbourhoods
Constant load-shedding at high stages and the Cape Town winter demand is bringing new load-shedding-related trends to the fore while some existing impacts.
‘The City is closely monitoring the Eskom situation. There are new trends caused by load-shedding that are having an impact on neighbourhoods and in some cases, existing load-shedding impacts have worsened. There is a lot of pressure on our energy teams on the ground. Not only are the same teams doing all the load-shedding-related work in addition to the normal maintenance and repairs, but due to the long outages per day, the window in which to effect repairs has also been halved. This is impacting services and we thank customers for understanding that we are in an extraordinary situation and all of our teams, across City departments in fact, will continue to do their best to assist residents,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Councillor Beverley van Reenen.
Impact of load-shedding and new trends
- Shorter-than-scheduled load-shedding: With the non-stop Eskom load-shedding at high stages, especially Stage 6 load-shedding, Eskom is sometimes ‘over-shedding’. It must then suddenly move to a lower stage to prevent system instability. The change is so abrupt, that it is impossible to communicate timeously. Unfortunately, the City does not have control over this.
- Overloading of the system due to peak-time demand spikes between 16:00 and 21:00: Geysers, pool pumps, uninterrupted power supplies and other electrical equipment left on when the power goes off for load-shedding all come back on at the same time when load-shedding is over. This overloads the system so areas can’t be switched on at the same time. What makes the situation even worse, where network trips after a load-shedding cycle, the City cannot assume it is due to overloading of the network. The network must be physically inspected for damage, theft or vandalism and it is thus extra time consuming to restore the supply.
- Protecting the grid by switching on in phases: To prevent large area outages, the City is now switching power back on in phases. This means the City is making full use of the switching window it has. As an example: shedding takes place between 20:00 and 22:00 with a window of approximately 30 minutes to switch everyone back on, provided it can be done without harming the power grid.
- Increase in very short notice of load-shedding changes and many changes in a day (or even an hour!): The City will continue to do its best to provide information as timeously as possible on its social media pages and website.
- City protection stretched: The City tries to provide up to two stages of load-shedding protection where feasible. At the high stages of load-shedding, it becomes more challenging. Over weekends, when the demand is lower, the City often sheds close to the same stage as Eskom to build reserves for the week ahead. It does the maintenance of the Steenbras plant too.
- Service requests spike and delays: Often a fault takes longer to repair as teams have to wait for the end of load-shedding before work can be completed. This might add a few hours to the request. Also, where we previously had a 24-hour window for repairs under normal circumstances, with higher load-shedding intervals, the window has shrunk to 10 or less hours a day to do the same repairs with the same staff in half the time. This is leading to backlogs.
- Storm-related damage on top of load-shedding-related outages placing pressure on teams.
- More household electrical appliance damage due to power surges when the power comes back on after load-shedding: This happens when electrical appliances are not switched off prior to the power coming back on. This is most evident where home installations do not have surge protection devices fitted and it is recommended that all consumers utilise registered electrical contractors to fit such surge protection devices.
- Reduced planned maintenance: To avoid further inconvenience for the public and also due to the stretched capacity of our staff, planned maintenance is suspended during elevated levels of load-shedding resulting in a build-up of maintenance backlog. This will have an impact on the distribution network beyond load-shedding.
- Vandalism and theft increase: Load-shedding creates a window of opportunity for vandalism and theft of electricity infrastructure. Residents are reminded to remain vigilant and report incidents. The City offers a R5 000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
We leave some streetlights on to deter vandals and criminals. The cost of leaving the lights on are minuscule compared with the cost of replacing the damaged infrastructure. City teams and law enforcement monitors hotspots but the situation is intense.
Report incidents by:
- Increased violence against City teams: Assaults and robberies of teams on the ground often affects repair work.
Explainer: What happens when Eskom declares a certain stage of load-shedding?
- The City and Eskom’s electricity control rooms remain in contact. The City’s control room is staffed 24/7.
- Once Eskom has declared a particular stage, and the City’s control room has been notified, the City demand is determined, and depending on the Eskom stage, how much protection the City is able to offer through its Steenbras Hydro Pumped Storage Scheme. The City aims to protect by up to two stages where possible, especially in the lower stages of load-shedding. Areas are switched remotely as per the schedule from the network control centre. Each area is switched remotely from a substation in that area. If there is a problem with the switching, operators need to be physically dispatched to resolve the issue. Although there is a central system for switching, it cannot be applied in all areas due to the configuration of the grid and also exclusions that apply, such as for hospitals.
- This City’s electricity generation plan is conveyed to the communication team who writes up the new notice as fast as possible and sends it to the City’s social media channels and the City’s website for publication, day and night, and over weekends.
- Sometimes, there are some communication delays for instance if the City is awaiting the declaration from Eskom or if there are changes in the middle of the night.
- Sometimes, alerts must be revised a couple of times due to the Eskom situation changing multiple times in a short space of time.
- Communication and connectivity: keep devices charged, find out which parts of the metro will have power
- A family plan: Staying in touch with our vulnerable friends and families; children, learners, teachers, elderly, those living on their own requiring assistance
- A work plan for health and safety and productivity: reducing the number of people having to travel and occupy an office; how to keep operations safe
- Keep cash at hand
- Keep fuel in the car
- Store medications and perishable items safely
- Secure your property and business
- Support your local Neighbourhood Watch
- Follow the City’s social media pages
- Private travel and public commuting: check the impact of load-shedding
- Congestion and traffic: Treat intersections where the lights are out as four-way stops
Progress of other components of the load-shedding protection plan:
- City’s biggest power tender, a 500 MW dispatchable energy tender issued on 6 April 2023.
- Phase 1 of the 200 MW renewable energy from IPPs tender: Contracts for this phase remain on track for final awarding within 2023.
- Power Heroes Programme tender: Process for the awarding of contracts under way. This is an initiative to unlock incentives for residents through third parties for voluntary energy savings, which will entail automated remote switching off of power-intensive devices at peak times.
- Cash for Power feed-in tariff increased by 10,15% for 2023/24, plus 25c per kWh incentive: Cape Town is the first city in the country to offer households and businesses cash for their excess rooftop solar power.