Eskom to class action firm: We can’t be sued for load shedding and here’s why

Eskom says that based on legal advice it has received, a law firm seeking to initiate a class action suit against it on behalf of companies which have been affected by load shedding, has little ground to stand on.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said that the legal advice the power utility had received relied largely on the National Code of Practice for Emergency Load Reduction and System Restoration Practices of 2010.

The code was published in 2010 by the South African Bureau of Standards and was approved as a regulatory standard by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa.

This as De Beer attorneys announced last month that it would initiate a class action suit  against the power utility and invited businesses to join.

Eskom implemented several days of Stage 4 load shedding last month following Cyclone Idai which hit Mozambique, further compromising Eskom's power supply. The power utility has long been plagued by ageing power plants, insufficient maintenance and allegations of state capture.

No guarantees

Phasiwe said that in terms of Eskom's supply agreement with either a municipality or with an individual customer, Eskom does not guarantee uninterrupted power supply.

Quoting the legal advice, he said, "In terms of the electricity supply agreement, Eskom reserves the right to interrupt supply of electricity either through load shedding, unplanned outages and planned outages. Load shedding is done countrywide as a controlled measure when the national grid is constrained to protect the power system from a total collapse."

He said that, based on the legal advice, even though electricity infrastructure systems are generally able to deal with interruptions in electricity from time to time, "their interdependence and vulnerability to a national blackout is significant".

Phasiwe also said that the power utility had been advised that electricity "must be generated and consumed in real time", failing which, load shedding should be implemented as an "emergency response measure to prevent a national blackout".

Additionally, the financial implications of a national blackout far outweigh the "economic costs of manual load curtailment or shedding".

Meanwhile De Beer Attorneys declined to comment.

"At this point, De Beer Attorneys is refraining from further media comment due to pending developments in the case. As soon as these developments are finalised, the firm will issue a further press statement and be available for interviews."