Lights to stay on in PMB

2015-10-10 09:56

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Pietermaritzburg - The success of a bold, voluntary load shedding project in Pietermaritzburg could mean that the lights stay on for the city’s 500 000 inhabitants when the rest of the country is in darkness.

On Friday, the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business announced that the joint power-saving initiative with the

Msunduzi Municipality had been successful.

For city residents frustrated by chronic load shedding, there will be several benefits.

They will no longer have to worry about sitting in the dark, or rushing home to cook before the lights go off.

The success of the project could see it rolled out by other municipalities in the province.

With over 70% of electricity in the city used by businesses, the PCB and Msunduzi decided to look at ways in which the city could save energy and prevent the lights being cut during bouts of load shedding.

Earlier this year, it was decided that Pietermaritzburg’s business sector would cut their usage of electricity by 10%, with large industries cutting back by 15%.

PCB director Melanie Veness said the local economy was being severely affected by the constant shutdowns in power from load shedding, and to shed 10% of power consumed rather than having businesses shut down completely was “the logical thing to do”.

Eskom’s approval of the scheme means that Pietermaritzburg will no longer experience Stage 1 and Stage 2 load shedding. However, the city would be in darkness with the rest of the country if Eskom implemented Stage 3 and higher.

The first trial was held on May 21 this year and was deemed successful by the PCB and Msunduzi. However, the exact results were difficult to analyse and a second trial was therefore conducted.

Nearly 800 Pietermaritzburg businesses participated in the second trial on September 29, and the city was able to show a saving of 20 megaWatts.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said yesterday that the municipality considered the 20-mW saving a success.

A message from Eskom to the PCB yesterday morning said they had analysed the city’s findings from the trials and were happy to give the go-ahead.

“We have reviewed the performance and run various calculations in conjunction with the Eskom specialist in the field.

“We are happy to advise that the municipality is compliant,” said the Eskom e-mail to the PCB.

Veness said the Pietermaritzburg community and municipality had been “amazing” in their support for the initiative. She was grateful that so much effort had been put into the trials.

“Thank you sincerely to everyone that participated, and to Msunduzi Municipality for their partnership.

“We can avoid Stage 1 and Stage 2 load shedding in the future; all we have to do is give capacity like we did during the trial,” she said.

Veness warned that the city would revert to load shedding if the participating businesses lost their focus on the initiative.

“If everyone continues to maintain the effort, there will be no load shedding for the city indefinitely.”

In practice, the PCB would bulk-SMS all participating businesses ahead of when the municipality needs to consider load shedding. The business savings would kick in and load shedding would be avoided.

“If a business participated, or would like to participate, please ensure that the PCB have cellphone contact details, so the business can be added to our bulk SMS system,” said Veness.

UKZN Agrometeorology Professor Michael Savage said people can take steps to stay cool if load shedding occurs in Pietermaritzburg in the middle of a hot summer’s day.

•In the workplace, if there is load shedding, a basement area of a building or workshop is often cooler than upper floors.

•Upper floors are warmer as they are often more exposed to the sun and hot air rises.

•Open windows if the part of the building you are in is not exposed to sun. It would be best to open a few windows to get adequate ventilation through the working area.

•In workshops, which usually have a metal roof, it is advisable to open all windows and doors. If the temperature exceeds 32,2 degrees, extreme caution should be taken and all strenuous activity should cease.

•In hot weather, it is always advisable to use a hat or umbrella when outdoors for extended periods of time, with clothing to cover the limbs.

WHILE Pietermaritzburg is on the road to stopping load shedding, Newcastle has never experienced any load shedding.

It is the only town in South Africa to not experience load shedding in the nine years since Eskom started power cuts.
The power-saving town began forward planning on saving electricity in the late nineties.

Mayor Afzul Rehman said the town had a Ripple Relay system that they had recently upgraded that enabled the municipality to switch off all geysers in Newcastle to conserve power with “a click of a button”.
“We are now able to monitor which part of town is using the most power and then we are able to manage it,” he said.

Rehman said the scheme’s success was due to forward planning of the growth of the town and managing and maintaining infrastructure. He said they invested heavily in maintaining their infrastructure, rather than spending billions on replacing it at a later stage.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  load shedding  |  electricity

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