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Load shedding uncertainty rocks KZN businesses

Jan 29 2015 06:00
Nqobile Mtolo, Maritzburg Echo

Pietermaritzburg - It is the uncertainty of not knowing when load shedding kicks in that affects businesses, according to a business chamber.

Over 50 Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) members tackled this issue on Wednesday, a day when stage 1 load shedding was implemented from 10:00 until 14:00.

The group said that under the current circumstances, businesses were not able to plan when they could switch off their machinery to prepare for load shedding, and workers were not given enough notice in terms of their work schedule.

PCB CEO Melanie Veness said that Eskom’s load shedding process created "utter chaos" for local business.

“Today’s meeting is a result of the fact that we realised that load shedding is a reality of everyday life. It creates utter chaos for business. It’s so disruptive because of the uncertainty of it. As the business sector, how best do we come together with the city to find a solution for Pietermaritzburg so that we can keep business operating?

“If a factory is not sure when it will be load shed, it does not have time to take its equipment down. The workers have to be given notice and short time must be declared. The cost is enormous, so we are saying that we want some certainty from Eskom. We want to know when it will happen so that we can plan around it. It’s the uncertainty that we cannot work with.

"Our electricity network is old and it is very sensitive, so the constant switching on and off creates havoc for the network because it breaks down. Then the guys [municipal electricians] need to find where the faults are and that takes time, eating up a lot of production time. This is not ideal for businesses, the municipality and the residents. It is really bad,” said Veness.

What is your city or town doing to deal with the load shedding crisis? Email us now.

At the meeting it was agreed:

- The PCB would have to try to identify some large companies that could immediately give the Msunduzi Municipality the required load in order to meet load shedding requirements from stages one, two and three.

- To cost the hire of generators (on a pay-as-you-go basis) for those selected companies that are not already fully equipped to run on generator, the costs of which are to be incorporated in a compensation tariff;

- Affected parties calculate a compensation tariff that includes the replacement of diesel, the generator hire costs and any monitoring costs;

- That all businesses that use more than 500 KVA, voluntarily contribute towards these costs - if it is spread out over a number of businesses, the costs will be negligible and the spend worthwhile in order to avoid load shedding entirely;

- The generator usage is to be monitored by a consultant (like EOH) and based on feedback from the consultant, individual members will be billed by the PCB on a monthly basis and the large companies will be suitably reimbursed;

- The Msunduzi Municipality will supply a list of consumers who fall into this 500 KVA+ bracket to enable the chamber to contact them all directly. They will be contacted individually and advised of the costs;

- Those contributing will be rewarded with a lower tariff, but will pay the compensation;

- Veness will take the proposal that the Msunduzi Municipality be permitted to sign a Load Curtailment Agreement, on behalf of the city, to Eskom, via the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) at a national level. The proposal did not receive favour with Eskom at a provincial level. The idea is that business will then curtail their load as per agreement with the Msunduzi Municipality. This is considered to be the most favoured outcome, because of the certainty that it brings.

'Unpredictable load shedding bad for business'

EOH is a company that is part of the industrial technology, energy infrastructure and services sector and has been assisting Eskom with the demand response since 2004.

EOH’s demand response business area manager Deborah Blane said: “It costs more for businesses when load shedding is uncertain than when it is predictable. Eskom supplies the municipality in bulk load and the municipality supplies all its customers and businesses within the municipal network. So currently, Eskom is load shedding the municipality and the municipality load sheds its residents.

“The load shedding between Eskom and the municipality is currently unpredictable. We are hoping to work with the municipality and the PCB to assist them in coming up with a solution to the problem. If the businesses do not come together as a community, there will be no solution. The challenge is to get the businesses to work together and that will be the role that the PCB plays.”

Msunduzi Municipality’s infrastructure services deputy municipal manager Sabatha Nomnganga said that the municipality is also looking at ways on how it can meet the demand by implementing waste to energy projects.

“We are also trying waste to energy projects and those are driven by the city and from that, we hope that there will be an improvement in decreasing the load. When we speak of waste to energy, we speak of sewage and litter. However at the moment, we have no idea how much power we will be generating from that. EThekwini Municipality has done waste to energy projects and so has the City of Johannesburg."

* Nqobile Mtolo is a journalist for Maritzburg Echo.

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