Meerhof residents have lost appliances worth thousands due to low and high voltage.
A number of Meerhof residents have been experiencing intermittent low and high-voltage electricity supply for the past months and have suffered major damages to appliances.
Despite testing by municipal electricians and the replacement of a mini substation by the Madibeng municipality, the problem persists in Cloister, Jean and Lincoln Avenues.
According to residents, the problems started after an electricity pole burned in Cloister Street in February. The problem was attended to but the low voltage supply with intermittent voltage spikes continued. “During a test in the mini substation, electricians noticed that there were some functions in the minisub that were not optimal. In July 2023, the old minisub was replaced with a brand new minisub with greater capacity. The electricians took measurements at Cloister Street, and the readings were fine,” said municipal spokesperson Siyamthanda Dilinga. However, after the installation, not only did the voltage problem continue, but residents also reported being shocked when using appliances and showering.
“Residents are fed up. We have been asking for help since February and despite the municipality’s attempts to identify the problem, it persists. Residents have suffered serious damage to appliances such as fridges, microwave ovens etc. and what is concerning is the ‘shocking’ in showers and when operating taps,” ward councillor Claudie Greenwood-Selby said.
The Madibeng municipality insists that there is nothing wrong with electrical cables. “Madibeng received a complaint about low voltage in Cloister Street during peak hours (17:00 and 20:00). The response was to send electricians to measure voltage during normal working hours. The readings were normal. The municipality also asked an external contractor to assess the cables. The results were that there was nothing wrong with them. Even with the new sub and tests done by qualified electricians from Madibeng and an external contractor that have shown that the cables are fine, there are still complaints,” Dilinga said.
The municipality has now turned its attention to premises in the affected area where solar installations have been done. “Having noticed that some of the properties that were complaining about low voltage and instability had solar PVs installed, the municipality asked all the affected residents to produce Certificates of Compliance (CoC) to show that a master electrician had signed off on the proper installation of solar in their homes. None of them were willing to show their CoCs. A CoC must be issued any time there are changes made to the infrastructure of a home, including the installation of solar PVs,” she said. Madibeng also supplied application forms for the connection of embedded generation (SSEG) to Cllr Selby to distribute to affected residents with solar installations.
She said residents refused to fill out the forms nor would they allow municipal personnel to check what solar systems they had installed. This has hampered the process of fault-finding. It is also important to note that before installing solar PVs, residents must first apply to the municipality and a technical assessment must be done before approval. None of the residents in the area of complaint came to the municipality for approval and they refuse to give the required information nor will they allow municipal electricians on their property. Madibeng is faced with the challenge of a refusal to cooperate by residents and this is hindering the fault-finding process.”
Residents told Kormorant that this statement was not true. “We did not refuse to supply CoCs. A CoC for electrical installations is law, just as one cannot refuse to stop at a stop street. I even offered in email correspondence to assist the municipality in gaining access to affected premises, but I was never approached for assistance,” Francois le Grange said. “We met with technicians on-site in Meerhof and offered them access to the affected properties but we were told it wasn’t necessary. No one refused access.”
Only four of the approximately 11 affected residences have solar installations.
Dilinga said the SSEG forms would help the municipality to know which households had solar PVs installed, and which solar systems had been installed. This is crucial information because solar systems must meet certain specifications. Solar systems must also have safety features for feeding back into the municipal grid in order to avert the destruction of municipal infrastructure and to prevent the electrocution of personnel working on a switched-off grid. The municipality discovered in the area where the complaints are coming from that when the municipal grid was switched off, there was still electricity running through it, which was feedback by the solar PV systems. This should not happen,” Dilinga said.