Five-year power plan
18 Feb 2013
Thobani Ngqulunga and Lunga Biyela
IN five years, Pietermaritzburg should have a new electricity network and the city’s power woes should be over.
This is the assurance from the Msunduzi Municipality following a comprehensive presentation to the council’s executive committee (Exco) by the head of electricity, Sabatha Nomnganga, last week.
The ambitious plan, which entails replacing the entire ageing electricity network, will cost the city about R892 million to complete and takes future power demands into consideration.
Nomnganga said they had already started implementing the plan with the electrification of the Ezinketheni informal settlement in Copesville, which cost about R22 million.
He said they had budgeted R70,7 million for the project this financial year, adding: “We have already purchased three transformers.
“One of them will be installed at Mkondeni, replacing the current 30 mv unit.”
Transformers at the substations in Northdale and Riverside were prioritised in the initial phase. Nomnganga said the old transformers would be scrapped because they had reached the end of their lifespans and, in some cases, had become environmental hazards.
Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said that they had prioritised Mkondeni and Northdale because these areas incorporated industrial parks.
He said they had secured R150 million to start the project.
“We received R100 million from the Department of Energy and R50 million came from municipal coffers,” he said.
Nkosi said they had included R40 million in the total cost for the installation of a smart meter-reading system.
“We will be investing approximately R892 million, so we must ensure that we have systems in place to recover the money,” Nkosi said, adding that a funding model for the rest of the project would be drawn up and submitted to Exco for approval.
ANC Exco member Jabu Ngubo welcomed the news, but expressed concern over mechanisms to prevent cable theft from the new network.
Nomnganga responded that they would replace copper cable with aluminium.
“We have discovered that cable thieves are interested only in copper, because they make more money selling it,” he said.
Democratic Alliance caucus leader Bill Lambert was effusive in his praise for the project, saying: “Well done. This is excellent news and is what our residents and ratepayers want to hear — ‘upgrading and rehabilitation’.”
The project — alongside which the R15 million Hilton power project will run separately — is the result of a year-long agreement between the municipality, the Department of Energy and the Independent Development Trust (IDT), an agency which offers development and management advisory services to government departments.
IDT project manager Sizwe Zulu said the municipality should take delivery of the Mkondeni transformer within the next two weeks, “and it should be up and running in the next month”.
He said tenders for the Northdale and Riverside transformers would go out in the next week.
Zulu said switch substations would be used to channel electricity while the new infrastructure was built to ensure that consumers were not switched off.
He said further funding for the project was expected to come from the Energy and Co-operative Governance Departments.
The project has been at least a year in the making. Former Msunduzi administrator Sibusiso Sithole approached Premier Zweli Mkhize and the Energy Department in 2011 for funding to fix the electricity infrastructure
Sithole warned then that unless funding was secured, the functioning of the KZN Legislature, which is situated in the city, could be disrupted.
Former Msunduzi electricity department head Maxwell Mthembu resigned in November 2011, apparently frustrated after struggling to get money to fix the ageing infrastructure, and yet being blamed when there were outages.