Businesses are edgy, there’s lots of confusion- Discovery CFO on load shedding

Discovery Health chief financial officer (CFO) Brett Tromp said there was no warning or briefing about the latest round of load shedding and businesses are "edgy" to find out just how bad the situation is.

"It came so suddenly, I think there’s a lot of confusion...the president was quoted [recently] saying where does this come from," Tromp told Fin24 on the sidelines of an accounting professionals event on Tuesday.

The country has experienced three days of rotational load shedding this week following a period of just over two months without blackouts. Eskom moved suddenly from Stage 2 to Stage 4 on Monday afternoon as seven further generation units tripped.

The power utility implemented Stage 3 load shedding on Tuesday, cutting 3 000 MW from the national grid, despite several of the generation units returning to service. This was due to low levels of emergency reserves, water and diesel to power the turbines, according to Eskom.

Tromp said the colossal Discovery head office in Sandton is unaffected by the downtime as the building is equipped with generators but employees are affected by the traffic congestion.

The financial services giant employs 10 000 people and 600 of its workforce operate from home. Tromp says Discovery equips them with uninterrupted power supply (UPS) devices for load shedding periods.

Every industry slows down

He expressed concern about other industries which are heavily reliant on electricity and are among the biggest employers in the country.

"Not having electricity has a massive impact on an economy that has a lot of production capability and mining capability. If the economy slows downs, jobs slow down, every industry slows down," Tromp commented.

Heavy industry and mining use high levels of electricity and cannot be powered by generators for most of their functions. Many small businesses are unable to afford a backup plan when the power goes down.

Moody's Investors Service said in a research report on Tuesday that Eskom ’s reserve margin is likely to remain tight until at least mid-2020.

Following an emergency meeting between the Eskom board and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan on Monday night, they resolved to institute an audit of Eskom’s systems and maintenance issues.

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