JOHANNESBURG – The Small Business Institute (SBI) has urged the government to redouble efforts to end the rolling power blackouts implemented by struggling power utility Eskom, which it said were having a crippling effect on the sector in South Africa.

Eskom, which has failed to produce electricity at full capacity mainly due to breakdowns in its generating units, appeared to be easing off on the rotational powercuts or load shedding implemented last week, in which it suppressed as much as 4 000 MW of demand at a given time to avoid completely tripping the national grid.

"Our members have been sharing painful stories of the effects of load shedding on their businesses, customers and employees," SBI executive director Bernard Swanepoel said.

"Worse, we are concerned that there seems to be no clarity on when we will see the end of load shedding," he said, noting that some energy experts were predicting the problem would persist for the next five years.

The SBI said smaller firms, which were expected to create 90 percent of South Africa's jobs by 2030, were more vulnerable than big business peers as they were not able to spend on alternative sources of energy during periods of load shedding.

“If the situation is not resolved urgently, we are headed for a devastating winter. And our economy, which has yet to recover from years of policy instability, will be dealt another blow,” Swanepoel said.

The SBI said it supported efforts by Business Unity South Africa, of which it is a member, to reach out to the government with a view to finding short- to medium-term solutions to the energy crisis.

"We urge everyone, including big business, to think creatively about alleviating the impact on small business. Short-term solutions could include sharing off-grid power with smaller firms in the same area,” Swanepoel said.

African News Agency (ANA)