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Poor load shedding plans affect businesses

Jan 28 2015 17:48

Cape Town - The sudden jump between the different load shedding stages is making it difficult for businesses to plan ahead, which is undermining their productivity, according to the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We have had two days where stage 1 blackouts suddenly became stage 2 blackouts,” chamber president Janine Myburgh said in a statement on Wednesday. “We have also had cases where scheduled load shedding was not applied.”

She said while no one was pleased to see the lights go out, it would be better if the load shedding was kept at stage 2 for a full day so that power outages would be more predictable and commerce and industry could plan to work round them. This would also give Eskom more time for essential maintenance work.

The City of Cape Town said Eskom set the stages of load shedding, which had to be adhered to. “The city decides which areas to shed at what stage, but the different stages are ‘activated’ on instruction from Eskom,” said city spokesperson Simon Maytham.

Eskom did not respond to the query.

Myburgh said that in a simple office situation you might know that your computers are going to be down for a two-hour period in the morning so you could schedule your staff and other meetings for this down-time.

“In a workshop or a factory this is even more important. A predictable schedule could put employers in a position to change working hours or shifts, introduce an early-closing day or move lunch-breaks into the dead time.”

She said that there were difficult years ahead for both business and consumers, but there was a willingness to work with the authorities to reduce the impact of load-shedding. “If we have load-shedding schedules that are strictly applied we can work around them and we can all do our bit to keep the economy going.”
 
Hard on city’s economy

City of Cape Town deputy mayor Alderman Ian Neilson told Fin24 on Wednesday that the impact load shedding had on economic confidence and the ability of businesses to operate was an issue for the city.

“There is a serious impact on those industries that need continuous electricity supply for their production,” he said.
 
“It is difficult to cost the financial impact of load shedding ahead of time due to uncertainties about how often it will occur; however the city has identified certain risks in terms of:
 
- The direct stress on infrastructure elements, such as substations

- The risk of water pumps not being able to provide pressure to higher lying areas, and/or not filling reservoirs adequately, thus risking the availability of water. The cost is lower service to our residents and/or having to spend money on larger pumps and larger reservoirs

- The risk that if sewer pumps are unable to operate there would be overflows into our streets and rivers. The cost is the health risks and clean-up costs, and/or the need to provide standby generators

- Traffic light disruption can cause traffic disruptions if the problem is widespread in a particular area. The direct cost is the economic impact. The other cost is the need to provide uninterrupted power supplies at each intersection.”

“Furthermore, as people take steps to protect their needs through alternative energy supply, we will see a gradual decline in electricity sales, and therefore a smaller pool of people paying the rates that fund the distribution network’s maintenance,” he said.

“The cost of maintaining the grid does not decrease in proportion with each customer that converts to alternative energy sources. This could make our current system of electricity supply unsustainable economically.”

Eskom’s poor communication

In December, Nielsen told media that the city had shared with Eskom “our dissatisfaction over the poor notification periods that the city receives and the poor communication that Eskom has with the public when load shedding changes are made”.

“Looking at the medium to longer term, it is clear that the model of electricity supply of the past 100 years is no longer sustainable,” he said.

“Eskom does not have the means or ability to provide adequate electricity to power our economy into the future. A national grid powered by large power stations cannot be our sole source of energy, or even of electricity.  

“The crony capitalist bent of the national government is accelerating the collapse of this outdated model. Disruptive new technologies are providing new opportunities for alternative energy supply models and we must prepare for a new future scenario for energy supply.

“The City of Cape Town is thus pursuing a model of energy supply, which seeks to diversify the city’s energy sources away from Eskom as the sole provider.

“It is clear that the proximate reasons for the current supply crisis are due to the underlying reasons of lack of investment and maintenance by Eskom over many years.

“We have sympathy with the operational staff of Eskom who are trying to achieve the best outcomes in the current circumstances and will work together with them to assist to avoid a national blackout occurring.

Plan ahead

On December 12, the City of Cape Town discussed with the regional Eskom leadership the implementation of load shedding and agreed:

- that improved notification is required from Eskom to the city

- that improved communication with the public is essential

- that a review of the load shedding schedules is necessary, as well as better alignment of the Eskom and city schedules

- that the regional leadership of Eskom will convey to their national counterparts our dissatisfaction with how load shedding is shared across the country, especially given the already reduced electricity demand from Cape Town despite our growth in population

- that the nature of the city’s economy, as a primarily services-orientated and tourist economy, entering its peak season, needs to be taken into account in load shedding

- that Eskom needs to accelerate the conversion of the Ankerlig Power station to a closed-cycle system and conversion to a gas supply so as to provide an anchor for a gas supply into the Western Cape.

New energy source

“We simply cannot rely on Eskom as the source of our energy supply. We must take back our power and take charge of the energy regime in Cape Town," said Neilson.

“The lack of national leadership on this disaster, which is set to continue in the years to come and which indicates that we are a country in crisis, simply cannot be tolerated, nor afforded.

“As a city, we must continue to drive the transformation of our energy regime. Energy efficiency, especially the initiatives which shift electricity demand in peak times, is the quickest, cheapest and most beneficial way to address our power crisis over the short- to medium term. It reduces demand, saves costs, creates jobs and helps local business.

“The city has been driving a successful High Pressure Solar Water Heater Programme in an attempt to reduce electricity demand in the peak times. For those with electric geysers (the largest consumer of residential electricity), switching to a solar water heater is the best way to reduce consumption and cost immediately.

“But we have also been actively promoting energy savings across the spectrum of users – everyone can save energy and costs – not only the more affluent residents.

“We need to fundamentally change our view of how we use electricity and where it comes from. The city has been doing a lot of work in this regard and, with the support of our residents and other partners, we are ready to lead Cape Town into a new energy era.”

city of cape town  |  eskom  |  load shedding
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