SU collaborates with Northern Cape municipalities to solve Eskom bill and load shedding challenges

The Smart Municipal Areas Programme driven by the Stellenbosch University Utility Solutions Research Chair (SUN-USRC) of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University (SU), and eight Northern Cape local municipalities have joined forces to tackle challenges stopping the municipalities from fulfilling their obligation of electricity service delivery.

These two specific challenges preventing them from fully executing their constitutional mandate of sustainable electricity service delivery are:

  1. Ensuring the Eskom Bulk Bill is paid in full (plus the old debt is validated and settled), and
  2. Minimising the negative impact of the current national Eskom Under Frequency Load Shedding Scheme.

SU’s Smart Utility Solutions Researcher, Christo Nicholls, is involved with this partnership. Christo is also an alumnus of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

After the last few months of collaboration, the effort yielded various positive and tangible results, namely:

  1. The current direct Cost of Electricity Supply has been reduced by more than 17%, enabling the applicable municipalities to successfully settle their monthly bulk bill and pragmatically start paying their validated historic debt. This was possible due to the Eskom Bulk versus NERSA approved distribution tariff, in-depth analysis and subsequent NERSA compliance normalisation modelling programme by Christo, and the brilliant support rendered by the Northern Cape Eskom team. This is the start of a long-term journey between Eskom and the municipalities. Hence frequent engagements are planned to ensure the targeted normalised Eskom Bulk Bill state is fully achieved and subsequently maintained.
  2. An initiative to transfer the municipalities from where the whole town is disconnected during the Eskom emergency load reduction-driven load shedding to where the municipality will take care of their own smart load reduction. This initiative will curtail the current loss of municipal income, which is more than an average of R20m/year/municipality. It will also enhance the provision of supply security to the municipality’s customers. Various engagements are currently at play and if all goes according to plan, the objective is to stop the current form of load shedding for the municipalities by the end of March 2023.

This collaboration between SU and the local municipalities will shift into the next gear at the start of 2023 when they participate in a municipality-bespoke five-day NRS048-9 compliant alternative load reduction programme.

The current Northern Cape local and district municipalities part of the collaboration are:

  1. Richtersveld Local Municipality
  2. Nama Khoi Local Municipality
  3. Khai-Ma Local Municipality
  4. Kamiesberg Local Municipality
  5. Hantam Local Municipality
  6. Tsantsabane Local Municipality
  7. Ubuntu Local Municipality
  8. Renosterberg Local Municipality
  9. Namakwa District Municipality

Photograph: Current acting Municipal Manager (left) Sydney Adams of Richtersveld Local Municipality and SU’s Smart Utility Solutions Researcher, Christo Nicholls.