File photo: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg.

Durban - Durban businesses are considering asking the municipality if they can voluntarily load-shed twice a week for eight hours at a time.

The idea is that they would not have any more load shedding for the rest of the week.

“The advantage of this is that business would be able to shift between maintenance and production in a more optimal fashion, thus maximising production efficiency, reducing idle time and managing labour more pro-actively,” said Alta Keyter, marketing and communication manager of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which hosted an “Energy Crisis” meeting on Friday.

“While the chamber understands the necessity of load shedding to prevent a potential national blackout, the chief executive, Dumile Cele, believes there is scope for the private sector to develop solutions... to help us service the crisis,” Keyter said on Sunday.

Businesses told of significant financial costs being incurred as a result of load shedding: one Pinetown company said one session had meant a R4 million loss.

Exporting companies said they were worried about not being able to meet long-standing international orders. Some smaller companies said they could not make contingency plans because of the prohibitive cost of buying generators.

The additional costs caused by load shedding included damaged electronics and machinery, spoilage and delays on the roads.

While the two-hour load shedding was disruptive, companies said their biggest concern was when load shedding continued outside the allocated time, and many companies reported experiencing far more hours than they should, according to the schedule.

“Companies in high-energy use sectors noted that the schedule does not take into account the fact that a plant can take up to 90 minutes to start up, should it have to be restarted after an abrupt disruption in power supply,” Keyter said.

The consensus was that the private sector in Durban needed immediate intervention, with many agreeing that the easiest intervention was for the municipality to give accurate information about the load shedding schedule and that, if it happened outside the schedule, to let them know as soon as possible.

Since the meeting, however, Eskom has been passing on load shedding updates and changes to the Chamber and these have been forwarded to members.

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