Durban - Load shedding in Durban this weekend is set to cost the city millions at the height of the tourism season and busiest shopping period of the year.

Yesterday Eskom plunged the country into its most serious load shedding crisis yet – reaching its critical level 3, the highest so far.

On Monday, Eskom chief executive Tshediso Matona will announce a forecast for load shedding during the festive season.

It resumes from 6am today to 10pm at level 3.

On Sunday, it will begin at 8am and end at 10pm in order to build up reserves for the upcoming week.

“Our objective this weekend is to fill the pump storage dams, fill diesel tanks and undertake essential maintenance,” Matona said. “After that, we hope to avoid load shedding if possible until mid-January.”

Yesterday, Eskom announced that the utility was forced to implement stage 3 from stage 2 because of the shutdown of two open-cycle gas turbine power stations that use diesel to generate electricity.

The diesel reserves have been depleted at Mossel Bay’s Gourikwa and Atlantis’s Ankerlig gas turbines, leading to their shutdown. The Drakensberg and Palmiet Pumped Storage Schemes, which use water to generate electricity, have reduced output as a result of depleted reserves.

In Durban, half a million visitors are expected to flock to the beaches in the coming weeks, placing an additional strain on the city’s power supply. Yesterday, blackouts across the country caused frustration for motorists trapped in gridlocks.

eThekwini Metro Police apologised for belatedly sending their pointsmen late to busy intersections when they knew in advance that there would be load shedding. “We apologise. We knew in advance that the power would go off.”

Due to a communication breakdown between the police and the electricity department, they arrived late at their posts. Pointsmen were assigned to all 23 intersections in central Durban.

“In some cases it was because they had themselves become stuck in traffic,” said Msomi.

During peak hour Friday traffic, East Coast Radio’s “Traffic Guy” reported: “Durban Central is gridlocked due to load shedding. Most of the traffic lights are out. Avoid if possible”.

Most shopping malls in the greater Durban area were hit at some time during the day, and restaurateurs are not happy. Shopping was affected at the Pavilion and Gateway malls.

Jonathan Groenewald, manager at John Dory’s at Wilson’s Wharf, said: “It’s a terrible nuisance. We are still sitting trying to sort out the bills.”

Manager Jean du Plessis at the Blue Waters Hotel said the hotel did not have a generator and that load shedding was irritating.

Nonto Dlunwana, manager of Nando’s in Amanzimtoti, said yesterday’s load shedding couldn’t have happened at a worse time on a worse day.

“The outlet had to close for two hours, from 2pm to 4pm. If the electricity goes, everything goes. Only the grill is gas.”

However, Charles Preece, operations manager for the East Coast region of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, said: “Most hotels have generators so there will be minimal implications because they are kind of used to it, however, it increases the cost of running a hotel.”

Umhlanga’s Oyster Box Hotel had generators that could cope with every aspect of the hotel for up to five days. “It is more expensive to run on them, but our customers are our priority,” said spokeswoman Joanne Hayes.

While some residents complained that their power had not been cut off according to the schedule, Deena Govender, senior manager for electricity pricing and marketing at the municipality, said some suburbs relied on several substations to supply power, and this meant that sometimes the area was able to avoid a power outage.

Homeowners with security systems have been urged to ensure their alarm batteries were checked every two to three years, to avoid a malfunction in the case of load shedding.

Marshall Security in Durban North explained that when an individual alarm system went off due to a power outage, security companies received an administrative signal to inform them of the power outage.

“There will not be an actual siren sounding from the alarm system unless the alarm’s battery is low (resulting in a false alarm signal). In this way security companies will know that the notification is not being received as a result of an intrusion. It is, in fact, only when the company receives a low battery signal that it will contact the client to warn them that their alarm battery is running flat.

“However, alarm batteries generally tend to last six to 10 hours and thus should be able to last for the duration of load shedding,” said Tyron Powell.

Blue Security’s Henk Van Bemmelen said: “When there is a power failure the alarm system seamlessly moves to battery power, with no disturbance to its functioning.

“The lifespan of the battery will depend on the sophistication of the alarm system and on how many detectors are linked to the alarm.”

“The outlet had to close for two hours, from 2pm to 4pm. If the electricity goes, everything goes. Only the grill is gas.”

However, Charles Preece, operations manager for the East Coast region of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, said: “Most hotels have generators so there will be minimal implications because they are kind of used to it, however, it increases the cost of running a hotel.”

Umhlanga’s Oyster Box Hotel had generators that could cope with every aspect of the hotel for up to five days. “It is more expensive to run on them, but our customers are our priority,” said spokeswoman Joanne Hayes.

While some residents complained that their power had not been cut off according to the schedule, Deena Govender, senior manager for electricity pricing and marketing at the municipality, said some suburbs relied on several substations to supply power, and this meant that sometimes the area was able to avoid a power outage.

Homeowners with security systems have been urged to ensure their alarm batteries were checked every two to three years, to avoid a malfunction in the case of load shedding.

Marshall Security in Durban North explained that when an individual alarm system went off due to a power outage, security companies received an administrative signal to inform them of the power outage.

“There will not be an actual siren sounding from the alarm system unless the alarm’s battery is low (resulting in a false alarm signal). In this way security companies will know that the notification is not being received as a result of an intrusion. It is, in fact, only when the company receives a low battery signal that it will contact the client to warn them that their alarm battery is running flat.

“However, alarm batteries generally tend to last six to 10 hours and thus should be able to last for the duration of load shedding,” said Tyron Powell.

Blue Security’s Henk Van Bemmelen said: “When there is a power failure the alarm system seamlessly moves to battery power, with no disturbance to its functioning.

The lifespan of the battery will depend on the sophistication of the alarm system and on how many detectors are linked to the alarm.” - The Independent on Saturday