Transformer theft forcing Eskom to implement load reduction

Eskom have bemoaned a series of criminal activities in Gauteng that are threatening to compromise their ability to minion a consistent supply of power to the province during the lockdown. 

They said in a statement on Friday 22 May that police in the province had successfully apprehended suspects who were found in possession of 10 transformers valued at R500 000, who were also accused of tampering with network infrastructure in the Diepsloot community. 

Three men arrested for theft

In the statement, Eskom said that the stolen property posed a serious threat to public safety and the company's ability to successfully deliver power to the community. 

"Three male members of the public were arrested on Thursday 21 may for the alleged theft of 10 Eskom transformers valued at approximately R500 000, and for tampering with the network infrastructure in the Diepsloot extension 13,' they said. 

"Cable and poles suspected to belong to City Power were also recovered at the scene. Eskom Security personnel acted on a tip off where it was discovered that an illegal construction of about one km of 11kV overhead power lines were supplying informal settlements in the area."

"The suspects, who are members of the Diepsloot community, were subsequently arrested by the South African Police Service (SAPS)."

Motlhabane Ramashi, Senior Manager for Maintenance and Operations in Gauteng, said that SAPS have been coordinating sting operations to stem the increase of such crimes. 

"These arrests followed an extensive investigation through the collaboration of Eskom and the SAPS. This is part of an ongoing sting operation as one of the multi-pronged approaches to deal with any criminality that seeks to undermine Eskom's efforts to supply electricity." 

Infrastructure theft leading to network overloads  

Ramashi also said that the company had begun to roll out "rotational load reduction" in areas like Diepsloot where the network is frequently being overloaded, in part due to the vandalism mentioned prior. 

"We have recently implemented a rotational load reduction initiative in identified areas or networks that are regularly overloaded, and Diepsloot is one such area," he said.  "The load reductions are aimed at protecting Eskom's assets from repeated failure and explosions, as well as curbing the rising costs that are a result of frequent equipment failures,"

He said that peak energy demands in the evenings and mornings were leading to severe malfunctions, with the word "explosion" mentioned an uncomfortable amount of times. 

"The exponential increase in energy demand occurs during peak hours in the mornings and evenings due to the network overloads which cause failure of equipment and explosions. These are as a result of illegal connections, meter bypasses, and tampering with the electricity infrastructure in areas with high-population density and multiple and/or backyard dwellings." 

"We would like to commend members of the public for their active citizenry by taking a stand against illegal activities that interfere with the security of supply and also compromise public safety due to exposure to unprotected electricity infrastructure." 

"Eskom is determined to safeguard and protect its assets during the lockdown period to ensure provision of service to residents and other essential services."