How long will this round of load shedding last?That’s the question everyone wants to know, and that Msunduzi has undertaken to ask Eskom.Msunduzi’s general manager for infrastructure Brendan Sivparsad said on Monday during a presentation by City planning manager Thabane Madlala at the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) that he would be putting the question to Eskom.Sivparsad led the City’s delegation at the meeting where the city’s progress in upgrading electricity infrastructure was discussed, as well as problems arising from the latest round of load shedding.Sivparsad said the municipality needs to know the implications of the new stages of load shedding introduced by Eskom recently, and what implications this held for the municipality, such as, for instance, how it will affect some emergency services.“At this stage we need something formal from Eskom. “Everything we have heard about load shedding we have read in the newspaper,” he said.PCB CEO Melanie Veness said the chamber will also approach Eskom to assess whether to re-introduce the electricity load shedding mitigation plan that was implemented by the PCB and the municipality three years ago.In this plan, large users of electricity in the city, mainly in business, voluntarily reduce their power consumption for scheduled periods so that Eskom can continue supplying the city with power, thus avoiding load shedding.Veness said, however, that if Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan sticks by his claim that load shedding will be over before Christmas, it may not be necessary to reintroduce the plan.Veness said unexpected load shedding is costly to businesses, particularly manufacturers. Operations are disrupted, equipment breaks due to unexpected shutdowns and there is disruption to production shifts and the lifestyles of employees.“Ramping down [production] is always easier than switching off,” she said.“We have been told maybe we will have load shedding, maybe we will not. The problem for us is now we have to plan for it every day,” one industrialist at the meeting said.In his presentation, Madlala said the city is close to completing a major project to upgrade and install new substation equipment throughout the city, a project that started in 2012. The project includes new cables, transformers and switching gear to the Pine Street, Northdale, Eastwood Primary, Belgotex, Crossways, Prilla Mills, Shepstone/Umgeni water and Lahore substations.He said an independent study done in 2012 indicated the city would need to spend about R1 billion to modernise and upgrade its infrastructure and reduce frequent outages at that time.Since then, R250 million had been obtained for electricity infrastructure from the Development Bank of Southern Africa, R100 million from the Department of Energy and about R30 million from the City’s own budget, to help finance the new instructure.Madlala said theft and vandalism had become a major reason for unscheduled electricity outages in recent years — other reasons included overloaded and ageing infrastructure, and interference with the overhead power network, particularly by trees.Benefits that the City can expect from the project — apart from new infrastructure — include shortened cable lengths which will hopefully reduce theft and vandalism, a lighter load being carried by the new Northdale and Eastwood Primary substations, which can provide additional electricity capacity for new businesses in these areas, and hopefully no more outages due to overloaded cables.