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Why Cape Town keeps street lights on during the day

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The City of Cape Town has published an official explanation for why it keeps its street lights on during the day after receiving numerous queries from residents.

“Under normal circumstances, there would be no justification for wasting electricity unnecessarily,” it said. “However, there are several reasons why the city justifiably keeps some street lights on during the day.”

These include:

  • The city may keep public lights of certain City-managed roads on to deter theft of electricity and vandalism of street light and electricity infrastructure;
  • Street lights can be switched on manually for maintenance purposes, to protect street light cables against physical damage by civil contractors;
  • The control mechanism that automatically switches the lights on and off could be faulty.

“It’s understandable that our residents are concerned about instances of street lights which are burning during the day,” said the city’s mayoral committee member for energy and climate change Phindile Maxiti.

“This can seem like a massive waste of electricity to residents, but the City does have good reasons for doing so, and the benefits of keeping them on far outweigh the benefits of switching them off.

“It is also important for residents to remember that street lights are very efficient and of low energy consumption. The impact of the lights burning is not as big as it might seem.”

When it comes to theft and vandalism, in particular, Maxiti said that keeping relatively small stretches of light burning pales in comparison to the astronomical amounts associated with the replacement of the same length of stolen cable and vandalised equipment.

Keeping street lights on has repeatedly proved to be an effective deterrent as thieves rarely risk their lives by hacking into live wires, it said.

Between July 2020 and March 2021, the city spent more than R15.5 million on repairing and replacing electricity infrastructure damaged by vandalism, theft and illegal connections across the metro.

Maxiti said that there had been an increase in incidents since the national Covid-19 lockdown started.

Read: Eskom on South Africa’s new electricity regulations and load shedding

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