How business is coping with load-shedding

Written by Buhle Ndweni and Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg City Power

The entity has started installing smart meters at households as part of its strategy to save costs and manage energy usage, especially during peak hours.

A smart meter enables the exchange of data between the utility or municipality and the customer. One advantage is remote meter reading, which means the utility or municipality does not have to incur the cost of sending someone to a property to do a reading or to turn off the power. The utility can also turn off power remotely, says energy expert Chris Yelland.

From a load-shedding perspective, smart meters allow the utility to inform a consumer to reduce their electricity consumption. This could be through warnings to turn off a geyser or swimming pool motor, says Yelland. “Smart meters are just simply a more modern metering device that can also communicate in two directions, from the utility to the meter and vice versa.”

Customers benefit in that they can manage their electricity consumption better. The smart meter allows customers to keep track of their usage and budget for it. “With a normal credit meter, you get a bill at the end of the month. You have no idea what it’s going to cost you until you get the bill,” explains Yelland.

Although smart meters are more expensive than credit and prepaid meters, the cost is covered by the utility. Currently only customers living within the designated roll-out areas qualify for smart meters.


The Gautrain is still able to operate normally during load shedding, with the exception of a few systems like escalators on the stations above ground which are not operational, says Jenny Roodt, Marketing Manager.

The three main components of the Gautrain system affected by load shedding is the traction power of the trains, station operations and control systems, explains Roodt. The traction power to the trains have two independent feeds directly from Eskom. The feeds are normally not affected by load shedding, says Roodt.

Underground station operations are powered by two independent feeds, via a ring feed, explains Roodt. If one of these feeds are affected by load shedding, the other kicks in automatically. In the unlikely event that both feeds are affected by load shedding at the same time, back-up generators operate most sub-systems for a limited duration. Generators power lighting, ventilation, lifts and escalators, she says.

Stations above ground have an independent feed. This feed has been affected by load shedding before. However, generators are on standby to operate most sub-systems, including lifts but not escalators, explains Roodt.

In the event of load shedding, there will be a short lag, while the alternative power source kicks in which may cause certain systems to stop for a few seconds, says Roodt. Regardless of location, all critical sub-systems like signalling and controls are connected to generators.


Operations executive of Ster-Kinekor Theatres, Irshaad Mahomed, says their theatres, like many businesses in SA, are also being impacted by the ongoing load-shedding.

He says where possible they check the load-shedding schedules and cancel screenings that could be affected by the power outages before customers can book their tickets.

“If a screening is underway when the power goes off, Ster-Kinekor will issue re-admission tickets to the affected customers to enable them to return to the cinema to watch the same movie, or another film, on another day,” explains Mahomed.

He adds that the decision to install a generator at a particular Ster-Kinekor site is bound by the agreement with the shopping mall in question.

“If a mall is fitted with a generator, in some instances that generator does not generate enough electricity to power the cinema complex. It is an extremely costly exercise to install generators that can generate the amount of power required to run the projectors, cinemas, air con, catering, etc,” he states.

“Ster-Kinekor is currently assessing its sites but obviously the installation of generators at all 56 of its commercial sites across South Africa is an extremely costly exercise,” he says.

Currently three Ster-Kinekor cinemas are fitted with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), while eight other sites have generators.


Private hospital group Netcare plans to spend R150m over the next two years to install generators, stockpile diesel and implement other measures to ensure uninterrupted service delivery within its facilities.

Currently, 54 of Netcare’s local hospitals have UPS back-up generators that kick in within half a second of an electricity outage. Of these, 28 have a second back-up generator and 21 facilities have ‘full island capacity’, meaning they could run independent of the grid for a sustained period.

In the near future, 40 hospitals will have a second back-up generator and up to 28 facilities full island capacity. In the event of a national blackout, critically ill patients and emergency patients will be moved to 11 specially equipped Netcare facilities around the country.

Taste Holdings

Taste Holdings has a national footprint of restaurant chains in the form of both franchises and outlets that the group directly owns. It is the owner of food chains Fish & Chips Co., Zebro’s, Maxi’s and Domino’s Pizza.

CEO of Taste Holdings’ Food Division Jay Currie says load-shedding has had a negative impact on sales at their over 500 franchise stores because less than 20% of these have back-up generators.

Taste Holdings’ franchise stores have a low setup cost, says Currie, and installing a generator relative to the setup cost of the stores is high. He says all Taste can do is discuss the importance of having a generator with the franchisee and inform them about finance options available for this. But in the end, it is up to the franchisees.

Currie says 80% of restaurants Taste owns directly have back-up generators that switch on automatically when the electricity switches off. He says since their restaurants tend to be in smaller shopping malls or complexes they are able to negotiate with landlords to enable them as tenants to install their own back-up generators.

This article was featured in Finweek magazine.


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