Nelson Mandela Bay residents carrying bulk of power-cut load

PE households and small businesses suffering more than those in other metros

Restaurants in Stanley Street battle with load-shedding. Residents and small businesses have borne the brunt of Stage 4 outages this week
Restaurants in Stanley Street battle with load-shedding. Residents and small businesses have borne the brunt of Stage 4 outages this week
Image: Brian Witbooi

Nelson Mandela Bay residents are suffering much longer periods of load-shedding at Stage 4 than those in other major centres, and should brace themselves for more of the same next week – or even worse.

After a week in which regular Stage 4 outages took a heavy and disruptive toll on small businesses and outageweary residents, there are fears that the situation could worsen next week.

As a result of the municipality’s decision to spare industry from blackouts, Bay residents – during Stage 4 – have up to 13 hours without electricity, compared to just the six hours experienced in some other cities.

Bay residents, who comprise about 40% of all electricity consumers in the metro, have been shouldering the bulk of the crippling Stage 4 outages over the past week.

This is according to the metro’s acting city manager, Peter Neilson, who admitted residential areas in the Bay had been subjected to more loadshedding than other metros’ residential areas around the country because the power cuts had not been applied to industrial areas in the Bay.

In other major metros, load-shedding is applied across the board, including industrial areas.

For example, a look at the schedules of certain area groups in Cape Town and Durban show that Stage 4 involves only three two-hour loadshedding sessions – equating to six hours – in a 24-hour cycle, while in the Bay Stage 4 could mean up to 13 hours without power.

Neilson said industrial areas had been exempt following a decision to favour job preservation by protecting industry from outages, taken when load-shedding first started years ago.

He also said the local infrastructure was unable to cope with multiple two-hour loadshedding sessions.

“Should the load-shedding proceed into next week, the municipality will go back to the drawing board and possibly reconsider load-shedding in industrial areas as well,” said Neilson, who pointed out that industry was responsible for 60% of electricity consumption in the Bay.

Confirming Neilson’s remarks, councillor Retief Odendaal, who serves on the municipal budget and treasury committee, said it was expected power demand would return to normal levels on Monday.

He said it was therefore anticipated that load-shedding could resume at Stage 4 levels or even worsen next week.

“We have had a reprieve [to Stage 2] due to Thursday being a public holiday, some businesses closing because of the holiday and load-shedding on Friday, and because this all runs into the weekend when demand drops,” Odendaal said.

“However, as normal demand resumes on Monday, we anticipate that the load-shedding situation will worsen.

“This will also, however, depend on whether Eskom has managed to effect its maintenance and is able to supply more power,” said Odendaal,

reiterating that the power utility’s capabilities were under severe pressure.

He said he had engaged with hundreds of Bay residents and had fielded many complaints from people who claimed it was unfair that they were being subjected to more load-shedding than residents in other metros.

“And I quite agree with them. Along with this is the unique situation in our metro where industry comprises 60% of electricity consumers,” Odendaal said.

The DA councillor sent out a WhatsApp message on why the Bay was being harder hit than other metros after consulting Neilson.

“But when the decision was taken not to apply load-shedding to industry, we did not have Stage 4 load-shedding.

“This is the first time we are experiencing Stage 4 in the Bay, so things have changed and we would have to revisit the Bay’s load-shedding schedule should the situation persist,” Odendaal said.

The administration said it would be monitoring the situation very closely and would provide more information in due course.

According to information published on Eskom’s website, while municipal and metro load-shedding schedules are different from the national utility’s schedules in design and detail, the utility has established principles for the design of its schedules in order “to ensure as much equity and consistency” as possible.

Eskom added that in many cases, metros and municipalities had agreed to work according to the same principles, but that ultimately the power utility had no control over how those authorities determined their own schedules.