• Cape Town may avoid stage-1 load-shedding thanks to the Steenbras dam’s hydro-power. 
  • As long as no deeper electricity cuts are required, the lights will stay on in the city.
  • Eskom last week warned that load-shedding could occur into 2019 due to “operational challenges”. 

The City of Cape Town maybe the only place in South Africa to avoid load-shedding, if the electricity cuts stay at stage 1, thanks to its Steenbras hydro-power dam.

But city officials warn that any blackouts that go beyond stage 1 load-shedding will still require Cape Town to black out parts of the city, as will be the case everywhere else in South Africa.

Embattled power utility Eskom last week announced that due to "operational challenges" and deteriorating electricity generation, load-shedding cannot be ruled out for the rest of 2018 and into next year.

Xanthea Limberg, City of Cape Town mayoral committee for energy, said the city has successfully been using the Steenbras Dam to avoid stage 1 load-shedding in the past. 

The dam, which generates up to 180MW, is typically used to generate power during peak demand periods to offset higher Eskom prices, she said. 

“This plant can [therefore] generate spare capacity which can be used to offset load shedding outside the peak periods and at times when these peaks are low,” Limberg told Business Insider South Africa.

“However, this is not a given.” 

The City also operates the Roggebaai gas turbines (42MW) and the Athlone gas turbine (36MW), which could be used to avoid load-shedding when the city is obliged to reduce its usage to help keep the national electricity grid stable.

Western Cape MEC for economic development Beverley Schäfer said Cape Town would be in a much better state to avoid load shedding if it wasn’t hindered by national policy. 

The province aims to reduce its electricity consumption by 10% by 2020 through efficiency and renewable energy, she said.

So far the Western Cape has reduced its consumption by 1.66%. 

“The Western Cape [and Cape Town] would [however] be much further ahead if the national Minister of Energy gave permission to municipalities to buy their electricity directly from independent power producers [wind and solar farms],” Schäfer told Business Insider South Africa.

The City of Cape Town made such a request to the national energy ministry in 2016, but was blocked. It has launched a legal challenge to that decision.