NATIONAL NEWS - The planned class action lawsuit against Eskom’s load shedding may garner popular support, but it may not be successful, considering the technicalities – and Eskom says they can’t be forced to guarantee an uninterrupted supply of power.
The Cape Town-based law firm De Beer Attorneys publicly shared its plans to drag the electricity utility to court, saying the implementation of load shedding was due to negligence on their part.
They urged South Africans, especially local business owners, who suffered financial losses as a result of blackouts to come forward and form part of their class action.
According to several media reports, one of the firm’s managing directors, Elaine Bergenthuin, said they have received “a lot of interest”.
“A cookie company, for example, which makes 10,000 cookies a day, could prove that, as a result of load shedding, they were able to make only 5,000 cookies. They showed a loss in profit.”
The law firm has already predicted what Eskom’s defence will be, saying they expect the utility to argue that rather than load shedding showing negligence, it was a responsible reaction to South Africa’s current energy crisis and a necessary step taken to prevent a national blackout.
Eskom sent out a statement yesterday defending their right to interrupt the supply of electricity and said it was to prevent a blackout, which would take the power system days to recover.
“Load shedding is done countrywide as a controlled measure when the national grid is constrained to protect the power system from a total collapse.”
The utility argued that in terms of the Electricity Regulations Act, under which the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) issues licences to Eskom and municipalities for power supply, “the system operator is responsible for the security of the national power system. Should the system operator fail, the national power system could collapse, causing a national blackout”.
Eskom said its duty was to prevent a blackout, and they were therefore required to reduce consumption to prevent this, as “the financial implications associated with a national blackout far outweigh the economic cost of manual load curtailment or shedding”.
Eskom pointed out that “it is specifically noted in paragraph 4.3.3 (note 2) that “the financial impact to a specific customer alone is therefore not sufficient to justify exclusion of individual customer installations from the emergency load reduction”.
Legal expert Ian Levitt said although it was a popular case that would gain support from people upset with the power utility, it would be a futile exercise because the damages would be too remote to prove.
“I don’t think it will be successful due to the technical nature of the alleged damages. Not only will it be difficult to prove but also too remote to link to the direct conduct of Eskom,” said Levitt.
Attempts to reach De Beer Attorneys were unsuccessful.