Load shedding is wreaking havoc in the city as it affects not only industry and traffic signals but has also resulted in sewage leaking into the Duzi River. The planned interruptions in supply could end up costing the City millions of rands in revenue, overtime and repairing its ageing infrastructure.During Thursday’s executive committee (exco) meeting, Msunduzi’s acting general manager for infrastructure services Brenden Sivparsad tabled a load shedding report which painted a grim picture about the future of power supply in the city.“We are at the mercy of Eskom … If we don’t choose to shed, they have the ability to cut us off completely.”Sivparsad said at the recent meeting with Eskom the municipality was informed that the power utility would have up to stage eight load shedding, which came as a shock to them as it previously only had four stages. “What this means is that at stage one you need to shed about 10% of your grid … Stage eight is between 80 and 100%, so it’s a total grid and that has serious implications because it can be the whole day, until the grid stabilises.”Since last month the City only been mostly on stage one because unplanned outages — due to faults — resulted in some power being saved so the municipality did not need to implement stage two or three even when Eskom gave an instruction to do so.Sivparsad said there was additional expense and human resources required to deal with the scheduled outages. He said some sub-stations required someone to go out and manually switch them off as it could not automatically be done from the control room due to the type of infrastructure. “We now have a separate team doing load shedding and another team dealing with unscheduled outages. The report on overtime is going to come with those dynamics.”The traffic department has also been affected as they need to have traffic officers to direct cars at intersections. “Another cause of time over-runs is that when we re-energise the network, there are large surge currents, which can damage our network equipment or cables. This means we have to send out field teams to find and repair the fault before the power can be restored,” read the report. Sivparsad said the water and sanitation unit was also impacted as the Darvill waste water treatment site was too big to be put on a generator. “When they go down for two hours it cannot operate so it [sewage] flows straight into the Duzi River … likewise our sewer pump stations are affected,” he said. The City has 13 sewer pump stations and only one has a standby generator so all other sewage leaks go into the river. Sivparsad said the water supply could also be affected in the future but they tried to pump the maximum into the storage area to prepare for an unexpected load shedding instruction from Eskom. “Such events are rare but if a state of emergency load shedding is declared, then all customers can expect to be affected at any time, and the planned schedules may not necessarily apply,” read the document. He said the City had engaged the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) to discuss how their members could be assisted as industry was losing production time due to load shedding. He said some businesses had come forward with a proposal on how they could save electricity to avoid shedding. The parties are meeting on Monday to discuss a self-reducing load strategy aimed at preventing the total shutdown of business during load shedding.