13 February 2013

Mozambique: Maputo Power Supply Back to Normal, Says EDM

Maputo — Mozambique’s publicly owned electricity company, EDM, on Wednesday said it has completed the bulk of the work required to restore Maputo’s power supply to normal, after the Saturday morning explosion that destroyed distribution control panels at the SONEFE sub-station.

For three and a half days the city suffered lengthy power cuts, but the power supply was stabilized as from late Tuesday morning.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference on Wednesday, the chairperson of the EDM board, Augusto de Sousa Fernando, said work on the alternative connections required to bypass SONEFE was completed on Tuesday morning, thus guaranteeing electricity to downtown Maputo, the part of the city worst hit by the blackouts

“The situation has been minimised as from Tuesday”, said Fernando. “There is still some work that needs to be done to normalize the situation”. But this remaining work, he added, should not affect the quality of the power supply.

“Since it’s a provisional solution, there could be some problems”, he admitted, “but not on the scale of the weekend blackouts”.

There are two main substations that supply Maputo city with its electricity – one in the neighbouring city of Matola, and one in Infulene (technically also in Matola, but near the boundary between the two cities).

The Matola sub-station normally supplies power to the lower part of Maputo, while the Infulene station supplies the upper part of the city. The two lines were interconnected by SONEFE – so that if one sub-station failed, the other could take up its load.

But the explosion at the SONEFE gas-fired station disrupted this system, and ended the interconnection between Matola and Infulene. EDM’s repair work since Saturday has consisted in bypassing SONEFE – but it could not restore the interconnection between the two sub-stations.

Hence if anything goes wrong at Matola, EDM will not be able to switch the consumers that depend on this sub-station over to power from Infulene and vice versa. The redundancy that was previously built into the system has ceased to exist,

But Fernando did not regard this as a major problem. “There is a risk”, he said, “but it’s difficult to assess, because the source in Matola is reliable and has the great advantage of possessing two transformers and three lines”.

There had never been any serious breakdowns at the Matola sub-station. “I can’t say the risk is zero”, said Fernando. “Like other cities, such as Xai-Xai or Inhambane, which depend on a single source, the low part of Maputo now depends on a single source and not on two”.

Meanwhile technicians from the German company ABB, which supplied the equipment that exploded on Saturday, are due to fly out from Germany on Thursday, to investigate the causes of the explosion.

EDM says it cannot yet put a precise figure on the damage caused by the explosion – but a preliminary assessment is that replacing the damaged control panels could cost between five and six million dollars, and the work could take 12 months.

EDM will have to pay for the new equipment, since the damaged panels, installed in 2007, were only guaranteed for a year. However, Fernando assured the reporters that EDM is insured.

As for compensating EDM clients for losses caused by the blackout, Fernando pointed out that the explosion was “an unforeseeable incident and it was not premeditated”,

However, EDM admits the possible of examining claims from consumers on a case by case basis. Among the losses reported are the cases of shops where fresh produce, such as meat and fish, rotted because there was no power to run the refrigeration.

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