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Help Eskom and help yourself

Coal fired power station

History is repeating itself. Eskom’s low running piles of coal dregs were soaked by unusually long and heavy rains in 2008, which led to country wide load shedding. Some also call it load sharing – more correctly it would be electricity or power sharing. And what happens now, in 2014? Exactly the same – again. Unusual long and heavy rains disrupt the coal supply to the power stations, open-cast coal mines are flooded, roads are unpassable for the heavy coal trucks and the piles at the power stations are so soaked that the wet coal is not suitable for firing the boilers.

Climate change will only make this situation worse as the climate models predict more rain for that part of the country, and also with higher temperatures expected, the power stations become less efficient because more power is needed for cooling purposes. So what are the short term options? The answer is at your fingertips. In your home you should turn off your geyser, your lights and any appliances when they are not in use. At the office you should switch off your air conditioner and other appliances. Unplug chargers and switch off any appliances on stand-by!

Some long term options also lie with you. Install a solar water heater or a heat pump in case you do not have sufficient roof-space pointing to the north. Do not wait to replace your lightbulbs with more efficient ones. Use a Wonderbag for more efficient cooking and consider changing your electric stove to a gas stove. Reduce the operating hours of your pool-pump as much as you can – the days are cooler already – 2 to 3 hours less should be possible without turning your pool into a green algae pond.

There are many other options and ideas, some which you can find on:

These will not only help reduce the likelihood for load-shedding but you will be able to save money immediately and also in the long run. Annual electricity tariff hikes are on the cards again. Eight percent annually is the currently agreed plan between Eskom and NERSA (National Energy Regulator of South Africa), down from the 16%, which Eskom had initially asked for.

Other long term options which lie with Eskom and the country’s energy planners will be a swift transformation of the energy sector towards renewables including wind, solar photovoltaics (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP), hydro and most importantly an ambitious energy efficiency programme. Such a transformation would also include access to the grid for all those who can afford to put a Solar PV system on the roof to supplement their own grid supply and reduce their electricity bills. All solar options (solar water heating, Solar rooftop PV) pay back in a couple of years, depending on the electricity tariff you are on and on your consumption patterns, i.e. the greatest benefit from a Solar rooftop PV system will accrue if you can use as much of the solar generated electricity as possible, at the time when it is generated. Community owned Solar PV options will also appear within a short time frame, it is not a question of technology or price anymore but a question of legislation and regulation. With regulatory surety in place financing will also be made available.

Brace yourself for further load shedding to come and if you are a little unsure about embarking on your energy saving and energy efficient journey – don’t wait, there are many options out there – it is worth it!

Robert Fischer – Policy and Research Programme Manager

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