Businesses to pitch in

2015-01-29 00:00

MSUNDUZI’S biggest electricity users in the business sector plan to cut their usage in the hope that Eskom will not load shed the city any more.

Business people and municipal officials met yesterday at the offices of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business to discuss how to create more certainty around load shedding. It also emerged at the meeting that the municipality is likely to impose additional load shedding, once Eskom finally operates without power generation problems. Aside from the inconvenience to all, businesses, particularly industrialists who operate large machinery and foundries, have been losing money with every load shed.

PCB chief executive officer Melanie Veness said it has come to the point that instead of occasional load shedding, it now had become “a way of life”.

If there was more certainty, businesses could plan accordingly, she said.

Deputy municipal manager: infrastructure Sabatha Nomnganga said at the meeting that they had tried as much as possible to avoid load shedding in the main business areas since Monday.

He warned that load shedding was likely to be around for some time, even if Eskom gets its capacity up to steam.

This is because the city’s electrical network is old and not designed for the additional rigours of load shedding and there are already constant repairs that need to be done with every load shed, as circuit breakers blow and cables become faulty, he said, adding substantial expenditure, and additional load shedding will be required to upgrade the system once Eskom produces regular electricity again.

The municipality could not provide statistics of this additional cost, upon further enquiry, at the time of going to press yesterday.

Around 70% of the city’s electricity demand is taken up by business, with residences using the remainder. And being considered is lobbying Eskom to consider the municipality as a single large user, which will entitle it to participate in an electricity compensation scheme, as some very large companies such as ­Mondi and Absa are already doing.

In this scheme, a big user volunteers to shed 25% of its normal load over a certain period, in exchange for no Schedule 1 and 2 load shedding.

In Pietermaritzburg, the top electricity users would commit to voluntary load shedding — also by leasing or using their own generators — and in turn they would be compensated financially by other businesses that use more than 500 KVA voluntarily. The PCB said it believes the costs will be negligible if it is spread out over a number of businesses in order to avoid load shedding.

Team manager at EOH group subsidiary Enerweb, Deborah Blane said at the meeting that they already manage this type of scheme for large power users of some 1 500 megwatts of electricity.

“I can’t see any reason why this system cannot be replicated for a large ­municipality,” said Blane.

Veness said Eskom initially objected to the municipality being registered as a large power user, in terms of a policy document formulated in 2010.

However, she intended to continue to lobby Eskom, on the grounds that while load shedding may have only been a once-in-a-while occurrence in 2010, it had now become regular, and the uncertainty about when and how long load shedding would take place meant that it was also now costing the economy a great deal of money.

At the meeting it was resolved that the municipality would be asked to supply a list of consumers who use more than 500 KVA of electricity to the Chamber, which would contact the companies directly. “Since businesses cannot be forced to contribute, those unwilling to do so may face paying a higher electricity tariff to Msunduzi — put another way, those contributing will be rewarded with a lower tariff, but will pay the compensation,” a statement said.

• Eskom stopped load shedding ­nationally at 2 pm yesterday, instead of an earlier anticipated 10 pm, due to ­savings from large power users.

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