Lights stay on for some
MBSA exempt from load-shedding while most of BCM sits in the dark
Many big industries in Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay are exempt from load-shedding while hospitals and schools are having to turn to generators to provide essential services when the power goes out.
BCM confirmed on Friday that arrangements had been made with companies like Mercedes-Benz South Africa to ensure production was not affected by load-shedding.
Conversely, provincial hospitals are not spared blackouts.
In Nelson Mandela Bay, residents, who comprise about 40% of all electricity consumers in the metro, have been shouldering the bulk of the crippling Stage 4 power outages over the past week.
Acting city manager, Peter Neilson, admitted their residential areas were subjected to more load-shedding than other metros around the country because load-shedding had not been applied to industrial areas in the Bay. In other major metros load-shedding is applied to all.
Neilson said they decided a few years ago to protect jobs. He said industry was responsible for 60% of electricity consumption in the Bay. As a result Bay residents – during Stage 4 – have up to 13 hours without electricity compared to the six hours experienced in some other cities.
BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya confirmed that they had arrangements with MBSA, factories in Wilsonia, the West Bank industrial area, and Vincent Park and Hemingways Mall.
Ngwenya said: “It’s called load curtailment. That means that as a city we have an agreement with some of our large industrial customers. We can instruct them to reduce electricity consumption when it is urgent to balance the system. They are able to reduce their load by up to 30%, significantly easing capacity on the grid. So it's not like they don't get affected by load-shedding but they can shed themselves by reducing usage in a number of ways like switching off air-conditions, lights, geysers, heaters.”
He said BCM was monitoring usage by big business and could “raise red flags, something that would be impossible for ordinary households in both monitoring and also equal self-reduction”.
He said big businesses had their “own feeder in our system so the whole system is controllable”.
On Friday, Daily Dispatch reported that health superintendent-general Thobile Mbengashe had instructed hospital managers in the province to stock enough diesel to power generators as irregular electricity supply was starting to affect water supply at some health centres.
Health department spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha, said there were no special arrangements with Eskom and municipalities when the power went out, and that the hospitals had to rely on generators.
Numsa Eastern Cape regional secretary Mziyanda Twani also confirmed that Mercedes was exempted from load-shedding in BCM.
The Dispatch asked MBSA how its East London plant was powered when load-shedding occurred; whether the plant had its own generators or, whether it had an arrangement with BCM or Eskom – whereby it was exempt from load-shedding for production purposes.
In their reply to the Dispatch, Thato Mntambo, corporate affairs manager at MBSA, said: “In a bid to protect existing supply and ensure sustainable production, Mercedes-Benz in collaboration with the BCM, has agreed to contain its electricity usage during supply constraint periods when the grid is under pressure to help the municipality regulate and continue with its supply.
“Internally, Mercedes-Benz has instituted a range of energy conservation initiatives, even when there is no load-shedding scheduled. We are working with our stakeholders to assist with a long-term and sustainable solution to the energy crisis.”
East London Airport is a national keypoint and for obvious safety reasons, would not be subjected to load-shedding, said Airports Company SA spokesperson Hulisani Rasivhaga.
IDZ spokesperson Fergus McClure said according to their understanding, there was no special arrangement between the IDZ and BCM regarding the scheduled rolling blackouts.
“We understand that Eskom has been rolling scheduled blackouts for surrounding suburbs as well, However, we urge that you contact BCM for further enquiries on the matter,” he said.
Confirming that schools were not exempt from load-shedding, provincial education department spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said: “I spoke to the CFO. We both concur that, with over 5,000-plus public ordinary schools located randomly throughout the province, it would be an unwieldy and costly exercise requiring considerable human resources for Eskom to consider excluding schools from load-shedding.”
An aspect that has been highlighted this week are suburban areas that by virtue of their proximity to industrial sites, are also spared load-shedding.
One Parkside resident, who asked not to be named, said there was much confusion around the current status of load-shedding in the community. Despite notifications of when load-shedding would take place, the electricity remained on.
“In the past, our lights would go off without warning. You would return home from work or watch television at night and then electricity is switched off. For some reason now, we are being spared load-shedding. I’m not sure what the reason for that is,” she said.
On social media, residents have been joking about moving to areas that have not yet experienced load-shedding, including Parkside, Pefferville and Parkridge.
One resident, responding to a question on the Buffalo Escapades Facebook page about some areas not being subjected to load-shedding, said: “We have had more than enough blackouts before load-shedding. Give us a break guys!”
Ngwenya refuted claims that Parkside had its lights on 24/7. He said Parkside was not part of the arrangement the metro had with MBSA.
However, he said there were certain areas in West Bank, where the MBSA plant was situated, that did not have load-shedding. “They [Parkside] are not on the same line as MBSA. There are specific areas in West Bank area that are on a separate feeder together with MBSA as part of recognised areas.”
Eskom communication manager Andile Mabusela said: “Eskom confirms Parkside is supplied directly by the BCM. BCM is better positioned to give in-depth response.”..