Media release: The Western Cape Government is delivering for you, despite national load shedding.
The illegal industrial action at Eskom has ended with the signing of a pay increase deal, but the power utility has warned that the country will still have to endure varying stages of load shedding for weeks to come, to allow power generation to fully recover to pre-strike levels.
The Western Cape Government (WCG) would like to assure the province’s residents that its departments are doing everything they can to ensure that they continue to deliver, for you.
Our departments have taken the necessary measures to ensure their work is not affected as far as possible by the ongoing rolling power cuts, and in doing this, are still able to deliver quality services to our communities.
When stage 6 load shedding - the worst round of power cuts since December 2019 -was implemented late last month, the WCG’s risk mitigation processes kicked in.
With a strong team in place, we have managed to avoid severe disruptions to services, and remain vigilant to any further risks.
Our various departments have implemented strategies to ameliorate this prolonged crisis:
Department of Local Government, Environment Affairs and Development Planning:
The centre remains on high alert and has been communicating with Eskom on a regular basis on changes to load shedding stages. It is also in close contact with municipalities across the province. Furthermore, the Provincial Electricity System Emergency Plan requires each department to set up Provincial Government Departmental Response Teams, which are in place. These teams are tasked with ensuring the continuity of operations in the event of a major emergency.
Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Minister, Anton Bredell, said: “The current uncertainty created by Eskom is taking its toll on all of us, and as a government, we are very much aware of this. I have written to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is responsible for disaster management on a national level, asking for a coordinated approach. Although Eskom is a national issue, it affects all people on a local level. The Western Cape Department of Local Government, through the Provincial Disaster Management Centre, is playing a strategic role to provide support to all municipalities in the province. In this way, we can identify problems relating to basic service delivery quickly and provide support, if needed.”
Department of Economic Development and Tourism:
The Western Cape’s Department of Economic Development has launched the Municipal Energy Resilience (MER) initiative to support municipality’s in becoming energy resilient.
Over the last financial year, as part of this project, significant work has been completed on unlocking municipal direct procurement of renewable energy from Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
To support this work, the Municipal Energy Resilience Fund was set up to fund 13 preparatory studies at 8 Western Cape municipalities. These studies include Electricity Master Plans, Energy Master Plans and Cost of Supply Studies, and are currently underway.
The City of Cape Town, in particular, is making great strides and has already gone out to tender for 300 MW of power.
The Department is also focused on enabling the private sector to take up renewable energy. In particular, significant time is being spent on the enablement of electricity wheeling on municipal grids, which enables private sector entities to transport power over the grid to another business or facility. The Department is also focused on driving the uptake of small-scaled embedded generation in the private sector. Currently 21 out of 24 municipalities allow small-scale renewable energy on the grid, and 20 have feed-in tariffs that allow households and businesses to be compensated for feeding excess energy back into the network.
Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities pointed out: “In almost every single engagement I have had, I have been told one thing: give us the power we need to run or expand our business.” The Minister added: “We however acknowledge that much more needs to be done right now, given the severity and escalation of the crisis, and so I have tasked our Department of Economic Development and Tourism with determining additional emergency intervention that can be considered immediately so that we buffer the impact.”
Department of Health and Wellness:
One of the most critical services delivered by the Western Cape Government are its health services.
The Western Cape Health and Wellness Department is prepared for load shedding.
Provincial hospitals have generators and many of our clinics are also equipped with generators or UPS systems. The department has also increased fuel levels to ensure generators can run during longer periods of load shedding. This is closely monitored through a fuel level dashboard.
Where a clinic does not have a generator, service delivery might be slower than usual as we will have to revert to a manual patient system.
Department of Education:
The department is doing its best to ensure that teaching and learning proceed when the power goes off. Schools have been taking steps to ensure that they have a more reliable power supply. Some of the measures implemented are:
Provincial Education Minister David Maynier reiterated: “We will continue to do everything we can to support schools in managing the impact of load shedding, to ensure that no matter what stage the country finds itself in, quality education can continue in the Western Cape.”
Department of Transport and Public Works:
From an infrastructure perspective, over the past few years, the department has been proactively preparing for energy resilience by installing generators and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in some buildings owned by the WCG. In buildings where generators have been installed, service delivery downtime is limited to the time it takes for automatically activated generators to switch on. Buildings with solar panels use less grid electricity. Reducing power consumption in this way in WCG-owned buildings helps mitigate the severity of load shedding on all the province’s electricity users and reduces WCG running costs.
“From a mobility perspective,” said Mobility Minister Daylin Mitchell, “on the roads which fall under the department’s jurisdiction, Provincial Traffic Law Enforcement deployments are bolstered to keep traffic flowing when traffic lights are off due to load shedding.”
Department of Agriculture:
As part of the department’s sustainability initiatives, it has increased its energy resource efficiency by installing a photovoltaic (PV) battery storage and inverter system at its head office. More than 500 kilowatts per hour of locally manufactured lithium-ion batteries were installed in 2021, giving the building electricity straight from the batteries during power cuts. By doing this we can ensure that the services we provide to the agriculture sector are not disrupted by load shedding. Among these services is supporting numerous research projects, which are extended to and benefit the broader agriculture sector. These initiatives also reduce strain on the grid.
Minister Ivan Meyer emphasised: “Three critical input factors drive agriculture production costs: fertiliser, water, and energy. With the current load shedding, farmers are experiencing pressure. Some have already started investing in alternative and renewable energy.” He added: “During my recent meeting with the banking sector and organised agriculture, we went through the various financial products which the sector offers to farmers eager to invest in renewable energy. Agriculture is resilient. The sector will push forward and continue to support the economic recovery of the Western Cape.”
Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport:
The WCG’s cultural and sports initiatives should also not have to suffer at the hands of persistent load shedding. Affiliated museums throughout the province have implemented a variety of measures to remain operational. These include:
By way of an example is the Bartolomeu Dias Museum in Mossel Bay which ensures it keeps its aquarium operational by using backup generators to protect its aquatic life.
Heritage Western Cape Council (HWC) and Committees have adopted an online and virtual operational model system since Covid-19. Council and Committee members can therefore convene meetings unhindered to process heritage applications. But the HWC also revises its meetings around load shedding schedules or hosts in-person gatherings, where necessary, to keep its operations on track. The provincial archives are also still able to operate thanks to backup generators.
Unfortunately, some services at the province’s public libraries do face strain during load shedding.
In reassuring the public, Minister Anroux Marais said: “We will continue working closely with our various stakeholders to ensure that we keep on delivering services and support events. We are committed to finding innovative ways to ensure that our services continue and that we offer visitors to our province the opportunity to support the arts, culture, and sports through visiting museums and heritage sites, attending live performances, and participating in and attending live sporting events.”
The WCG is confident that with all these measures in place it can help shield the public – and our service delivery offering - from some of the inconveniences and disruptions that accompany load shedding. We are also confident that the interventions of our economics department will bolster the entire grid, enabling greater energy security throughout our province into the future, and we will continue to focus relentlessly on this imperative. We know that load shedding is tough for residents and businesses, and we are therefore doing all that we can to ensure that in our province, service delivery remain strong, for you.