The Mercury: Pietermaritzburg businesses under immense pressure due to load shedding


DURBAN- LOCAL businesses, buckling under the pressure of load shedding, have urged Eskom to consider other innovative ways of managing rolling blackouts that will prevent the total shutdown of their operations.

The Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business (PMCB) has urged Eskom to consider allowing businesses to contribute only the amount of electricity required at each level of load shedding, rather than shutting down their entire operations.

The chamber said the current manner of load shedding is pushing businesses to the brink of collapse, damaging factory equipment and causing massive losses in spoiled products and production time.

It has been reported that in this financial year, beginning April, the country has endured 29 days of load shedding compared with around 40 in the whole of the previous financial year.

PMCB chief executive Melanie Veness said the current form of load shedding that imposes unlimited blackouts on businesses was not working.

She said every-time companies and industries were ordered to shut down, they lose what they were producing because the products that were in the production line get spoiled and have to be thrown away.

“We cannot just power up and down a furnace, some of the industries have very sensitive electrical equipment. When you power up and down they are power surges and the equipment gets damaged,” she said.

She said they will be engaging with the Msunduzi Municipality to find a more reasonable solution.

She said: “Seventy percent of power in Msunduzi is consumed by industries, we will engage with the municipality to determine how much each industry draws from the grid and in the event of load shedding we will determine how much each must contribute rather than shutting down.”

John Dludlu, chief executive of the Small Business Institute, said the impact of load shedding was devastating to small businesses and would delay their recovery.

“The SME ecosystem would appreciate ample advance notices of load shedding. We now need to accelerate all the plans of diversifying sources of energy. Small businesses, unlike big businesses, have no luxury of getting off the national grid or generating their own power.”

Energy analyst Roger Lilly said Eskom’s infrastructure was old and unreliable, adding that new infrastructure that was meant to alleviate the problem has also proven to be unreliable.

He urged communities to invest in independent energy sources that could draw them away from Eskom.

“My advice is that South Africans should find ways to be independent from Eskom as much as possible. I would love to see a situation whereby municipalities and the factories generate their own power and they share that with the local communities,” said Lilly.

“Eskom power stations are being maintained but the maintenance is no longer holding. The stations will continue to be unreliable and people should expect them to get worse,” he said.

Energy analyst Tshepo Kgadima said South Africans were deluding themselves if they believed the current Eskom management, board and Cabinet had the required skills to arrest the problem, saying the current challenges were beyond their capabilities.

“I listened to their press conference as the management spoke of “unplanned maintenance”. There is no such thing. You either have maintenance or a breakdown. We saw the politicians promising that there would be no load shedding on voting day, Eskom would be running generators with diesel, burning R10 million per hour, they are looking at spending R160m on that day alone,” he said.

He described the situation as evidence of the country being a “banana republic”. “These people (government and Eskom management) are playing games with an entity that is central to life in the country. When you are alive, you need Eskom, when you are dead and are about to be buried, you need Eskom.

Political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe shared Kgadima’s sentiment, saying the current management should have been removed from office as they have failed.

“We had no problems removing black competent people. In 2015 we had load shedding and Molefe (Brian) and (Matshela) Koko were brought in, and load shedding stopped. They have stated that they had a formula to address it, but they were removed and we know that their removal had very little to do with corruption,“ he said.

by The Mercury –

Thami Magubane