Cape Town businesses plug into electricity wheeling facility

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 05 Sept 2022

The City of Cape Town’s energy wheeling pilot project is gaining traction among the province’s businesses, with more firms coming onboard to circumvent load-shedding.

This was the word from Geordin Hill-Lewis, the mayor of Cape Town, speaking at the Africa Tech Week 2022 Conference last week.

Providing an update of the city’s ongoing tech initiatives, Hill-Lewis expressed pride that the Western Cape currently holds the title of Africa's tech capital, noting that the Mother City’s world-class digital ecosystem gives rise to a wealth of tech industry opportunities.

Over the years, Cape Town has been at the forefront of calling on government to be allowed to procure its own energy in order to wean itself from the embattled Eskom.

In May, the City of Cape Town announced the launch of its first electricity wheeling pilot research project. At the time, the city had called on interested parties to apply to become part of the pilot project.

The initiative involves the wheeling of electricity to customers who want to buy energy from third-party suppliers that source the electricity from generators connected to Eskom or city electricity grids.

The system, run in George Municipality, is now being used by eight clients, explained Hill-Lewis.

“In our discussions with many of our tech businesses in Cape Town, we have understood that to do business globally, they will have to transform their energy supply sources,” he explained.

“We are the first municipality in the country to start an electricity wheeling project, with clients in the city now being able to wheel power from the source and either sell it to one another or third-party customers. This is made possible through an energy intransigent data centre which is able to wheel renewable energy from anywhere in the country, get it into the city's grid and get 100% renewable power which customers can use for their needs.”

Electricity wheeling involves transporting electricity from a generator to a remotely located end-user through the use of an existing distribution or transmission system.

According to the Western Cape government, wheeling provides better services to customers and stimulates competitiveness in the energy market.

Cape Town has also made significant investments in contractor-demand-geyser control, which uses the internet to remotely communicate with hot water geysers in citizen’s homes, in efforts to switch the geyser off-and-on during periods of peak demand, to manage the demand for electricity, continued Hill-Lewis.

“We are able to remotely turn those geysers off and save us potentially an entire additional stage of load-shedding in Cape Town. We will be soon rolling out this project and it will be entirely on voluntary basis. It will use ICT technology and innovation in the best possible way to help us end load-shedding in Cape Town.” 

Cape Town renewable projects in the pipeline include:

  • Pooling buying facility: This would enable a number of municipalities to collectively buy power from several large independent power producers.
  • Battery storage: This technology provides new opportunities for energy resilience globally and is also an exciting industry for investment potential in the province.
  • Green hydrogen: Green hydrogen can be used for transport fuels and exploration is under way to take advantage of the Western Cape being well positioned to produce green hydrogen.