Johannesburg – South Africans should expect more power
cuts, as the distribution grid will gradually collapse from
2015 unless a maintenance backlog is addressed, an expert
said on Thursday.
“We are three years away from collapse,” Deon Louw, the
deputy director of electro-technical services in Overstrand
municipality, Western Cape, told MPs.
“It is going to collapse in stages, as some parts are older
than others. We will see power failures.”
Louw told public hearings on the electricity distribution
industry – hosted by Parliament’s portfolio committee on
that the lifespan of a distribution network was 50 years, and
said the various components of South Africa’s had an
average age of 47 years.
He said power failures were often wrongly blamed on
Eskom’s generation capacity, when in fact the fault lay with
ageing distribution infrastructure.
Two days of hearings have seen experts reiterate warning
that the country faced a R35 billion backlog in distribution
maintenance, of which R10 billion was needed on the
Eskom network, while the rest referred to municipal
But Louw said municipalities often “stole” from their
maintenance funds to cover other unforeseen expenses,
such as higher than expected public service salary increases.
“That is often the one area where they can reduce
Louw said at the moment R3.5 billion was spent annually on
maintenance, but the figure needed to increase to R6.5
The hearings have heard calls for maintenance funding to be
ringfenced, which can only be done through legislation, and
for a one percent levy to be charged on distribution.