Friday, 18 January 2008

Powerless about Power by Candlelight

The latest joke doing the rounds in South Africa is "What did we have before candles?"

Interestingly, if we compare electricity prices in South Africa to the rest of the world we are cheap. But this is cold comfort when there is a 2 hour power cut every day. It is called load shedding.

The electricity supplier - Eskom - failed to invest in new power stations over the years. In 1990, a number of stations were decommissioned due to excess capacity. It will now take time and major investment to get these up and running again. Years of under-investment and poor maintenance of equipment has led to Eskom's inability to fulfil the demand for power. The growing economy has generated a growing demand for power.

Living in London in the seventies, the country reverted to a three day week. This was the result of a major miner's strike. Coal supplies had to be conserved. Through the mists of time I recall power being cut at various times each week. That was over 30 years ago.

In South Africa of 2008 we do not have a miner's strike. What we have is a failure to plan.

How are people coping? Traffic nightmares abound. Traffic lights stop when the power stops. Shopping centres stop trading. Businesses come to a standstill.

Of course there are romantic candle-lit dinners. Those that have gas can even eat hot food. The art of conversation is being revived. People are finding resources within themselves - a realisation that technology isn’t everything.

But out of the darkness comes light. There are positive signs. Consumer subsidies for solar heating panels are on the cards. Alternatives to fossil fuel electricity generation are being investigated. Solar powered traffic lights are on the way - perhaps to be extended to street lighting.

Perhaps a crisis was needed to force us to adjust our carbon footprint.

1 comment:

david santos said...

Hi Jay

Excellent post!
Thank you.
have a good day