City gives power to residents of informal settlements

City gives power to residents of informal settlements

The days of living in darkness for residents of two of Johannesburg’s informal settlements are almost over.

City Power, the City of Johannesburg’s electricity utility, has embarked on a R423-million project to provide prepaid electricity to Thembelihle and Lawley Station informal settlements in Region G, south of the city. The project will commence in the current financial year and completed next financial year.

Thembelihle will be electrified at a cost of R323-million, whereas Lawley Station has been allocated R100-million to enable its residents to access the power grid. The community will receive a hybrid electrification which includes an energy mix of the grid, photovoltaic panels and portable gas bottles accompanied by gas stoves.

More than 9 000 households – 7 000 in Thembelihle and 2 000 in Lawley – will benefit from the project. The move follows the tabling of a report by the City’s Sustainable Services Cluster during the 2015-2016 Budget debate.

In the report, Member of the Mayoral Committee for the Environment and Infrastructure Services Cllr Matshidiso Mfikoe said the City had electrified more than 10 human settlements in the past five years. These included Lehae, Lufhereng, Fleurhof, Tshepisong West, Devland Extension, Elias Motsoaledi Phase 1 and Narens Farm.

The MMC said City Power had been allocated an operating budget of R15.4-billion for the 2015-2016 financial year and a capital budget of R4.6-billion for the next three years to fund the rollout of the electrification of informal settlements, installation of prepaid meters and smart meters, network expansions and the refurbishment of existing infrastructure. She said the power utility would continue to roll out prepaid electricity meters to secure the City’s revenue streams and mitigate the impact of load-shedding.

The MMC said a further R200-million had been set aside for the 2016-2017 financial year’s electrification projects.

Sicelo Xulu, City Power’s Managing Director, said one of the benefits of the energy mix was that during load-shedding residents would still have their lights on as they would at that point be using energy harvested from sun. Xulu said gas stoves, to be installed by City Power and accompanied by free 9kg gas cylinder per household, would enable residents to cook and provide heating to mitigate the impact of load-shedding. Streetlights will remain on even during load-shedding.

Xulu said the electrification of the settlements would enable pupils to study and do their homework at night in the comfort of their own homes, without the fear of power disruptions.

“Death risk resulting from electrocutions caused by illegal connections will be minimised. The provision of this energy mix will also minimise health hazards such as smoke inhalation from braziers.

“Damage to City Power infrastructure as a result of illegal connections will also be mitigated,” he said.

Xulu said as 69% of electricity consumption came from cooking and heating and 31% from lights and plugs, residents might prefer using more gas. He said there would be gas depots in both informal settlements manned by Jozi@Work contractors, who would be charged with the responsibility of maintaining solar panels, among other things.

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