Why is the City of Cape Town load shedding in Stage 1?

Steenbras dam 27 April 2017 city of cape town Day Zero

An abrupt bout of load shedding has hit South Africa hard this week, with Stage 2 cutting power in some areas for up to five hours per day. But in Cape Town, only Stage 1 has been implemented.

The City isn’t free from Eskom’s choke hold, but it is able to alleviate the stress of load shedding by using hydroelectric power.

The Steenbras Dam system, located south-east of the city centre, supplies its residents with drinking water, but also generates power during peak electricity usage periods.

This has become notably handy this week.

“The plant is normally used for ‘peak lopping’,” the City explained.

“During periods of peak demand in the day, when energy purchases from Eskom are most expensive, the water from the upper storage reservoir is released to the lower reservoir.

“This creates hydroelectric energy for the City and thereby reduces demand from Eskom thus saving the ratepayer money.”

Steenbras’ hydroelectric plant was opened in 1979 and generates 180MW. But that’s not enough to quell load shedding across the City.

Planned maintenance to hit Cape Town

But there is some bad news. Well, worse news.

The City of Cape Town announced on Wednesday that planned maintenance is scheduled for the hydroelectric plant from next week. It’s set to last for six months, coming to an end in May 2020.

The necessary maintenance was planned for this period as electricity usage is lower at this time of the year, which would ideally have had a minimal impact on City-supplied customers,” said Phindile Maxiti, the City’s MayCo member for energy and climate change.

But, unfortunately should load-shedding continue in the weeks and months ahead, the City will be unable to assist its customers with additional generation capacity.”

Feature image: Steenbras Dam system, by City of Cape Town

Andy Walker
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