Friday 3 July 2020

Round and round with load rotation

South Africa has had power issues for many years. Lack of power, lack of infrastructure maintenance and development. Our town has taken this to new levels. Forget load shedding and welcome load rotation.

During COVID lockdown, we had no power issues or cuts. Of course, businesses and fscoties were osed so there was no load on the available capacity. With the lifting of restrictions on work and movement came restrictions in power. In Parys, we were dealing with unscheduledoad shedding and the start of a new system called load rotation.

Apparently our municipality made a deal with Eskom like 20 years ago for a certain quota of electricity each month. Well, we not only exceed this requirement, but our municipality is billions of Rands in debt to Eskom. Not only do they not pay the money across to Eskom from our pre-paid meters and also the funds collected for non-pre-paid usage, but they have not been very good at collecting money from residents for electricity, water and rates.

As it turns out, the municipality only collects funds from 40% of the residents in Parys! I'm not talking township here. No, this the figure for our town! No wonder our electricity money has disappeared. 

Eskom have put their foot down and have limited daily electricity quota to Parys. So, the town started with load rotation a few weeks back. The town (and township) are divided into four zones. Loadshedding starts at 5am and each zone is disconnected for two hours at a time. Load rotation ends at 10pm. This means that we are without power for at least 4hrs a day - or five if you get the last 7pm to 10pm slot. Your zone shifts on the schedule each day so everyone gets a turn during the week in each slot.

The schedule is a blessing and it is with thanks to the movers and shakers in town that we have this. Until the schedule came out, about three weeks ago, we never knew when the lights would go off. 

At home you can manage between lights candles, laptop battery and running errands or going for a run for two hours each time but when you run a manufacturing business... This is no fun! 

Celliers runs the factory side of our business and every day brings new problems. Yes, we're running a generator but this costs a fortune to run for 4, 5 or more hours a day. Electricity on and off plays havoc with machinery and equipment. And, the generator gets tired and has to be serviced and repaired - which happened this week. When the power goes down, the factory goes down. And every time we have an unscheduled cut or when the power turns off before it should, we risk losing a boat by moulding rejects. That's gas, materials, labour and time down the drain. These are very costly. 

Waking up in the morning means that the day must be faced. I think that is why more and more I like nights. The day is behind me, any crises have been dealt with and I'm as free as I can be. Morning brings with it a host of opportunities for disaster. 

I don't have to deal with too many of these directly right now but I know that this is what Celliers walks into every day. There isn't too much he can do other than to solve problems caused by factors outside of our control. And even though I do not have the ability or skills to fix things on the factory side, the weight of this is always around because it affects our business. 

There isn't much light on the horizon where power is concerned. We don't know how long load rotation will be around for. Of course, we plan work hours, adjust shift changes and lunch breaks but the gremlin is on our shoulders. 

We are blessed to have work - a lot of it with tight time frames - at the moment. We have got good relationships and partnerships and we're putting in the hours to improve and really get set up for the coming months. 

We hope that we'll see a turnaround, but this may only come with the return of warmer weather.. Or by some miracle we wish for Eskom to bypass our municipality to supply to our town directly instead of using our municipality as a middle man. Or that agreements can be reached to increase our quota - afterall, Parys is a lot bigger and more productive than it was 20 years ago.

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