Blackouts puzzle residents

RECENTLY Port Alfred and surrounds have experienced at least six power outages, ranging from during office hours to late at night and in the early hours of the morning.

Of the six blackouts, three have been Eskom related and three on the Manelec controlled grid, Manelec manager Popeye Steyn explained.

The latest outage was on Monday night when the power went off close to 1am and was switched back on near 5am.

The reasons for the outages range from a substation blowing up, to a cable blowing up, a lightning strike on a substation and a transformer packing up, Steyn said.

Monday night’s power outage was as a result of a speculated lightning strike on the “132 line” in Grahamstown which is connected to the Kowie substation near 42 Air School which is an Eskom station. This station feeds the Station Hill substation (Manelec) which in return supplies power to the rest of town.

Despite speculation that power outages have been planned and controlled, Steyn confirmed that neither Manelec nor Eskom have been implementing planned outages. Some speculation on public forums like Facebook suggested it is “quiet load shedding”, which is false.

Steyn said the outages occur without warning, and either Manelec or Eskom responded promptly to fix the problem when it occurs.

“We are trying our best, and respond immediately when a problem arises. Our team is dedicated and respond to outages irrespective of what how late or early or what bad weather we are experiencing,” Steyn said.

When Manelec started operations in2000, Port Alfred and surrounds were experiencing around six to seven outages a week, Steyn said, and currently they are averaging less than one in a month.

Commenting on Facebook in response to an outage query, Linda Edwards, the wife of a Manelec technician, said: “It’s really not planned. The system is old and run down. Spare a thought for those giving up every weekend [to] make sure the power comes back on again.”

Ultimately Manelec is responsible for upkeep, maintenance and repairs as well as function of the substations, power lines and the overall grid of Port Alfred, but are not the owners and therefore not responsible for replacing 70-year-old infrastructure.

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