Energy council to save economy?

Last Thursday, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde established an Energy Council to address the ongoing and crippling issue of load shedding.

The Atlantic seaboard is being hit hard by load shedding.

“Urgency is required if we are to save our economy and push ahead with our Growth For Jobs strategy. Load shedding is costing South Africa and our province billions in lost opportunities. It is conservatively estimated that stage 6 load shedding is costing South Africa between four and six billion rand per day,” Mr Winde said.

He also said he wants the Western Cape to be independent of Eskom as soon as possible.

The Energy Council laid the groundwork for how it will be structured and fleshed out its priorities, which include ensuring that the province is energy resilient.

Former Eskom executive, Alwie Lester, has been appointed as an energy advisor.

At the gathering both medium and long-term plans was discussed and the Energy Council has determined: its work must be data-driven; a broad energy mix must be considered; all viable opportunities must be explored; and the most vulnerable in the province must always be borne in mind as they are suffering the most as a result of relentless power cuts, which are predicted to worsen this year.

Blake Sarembock, 32, of Mainstream Electrical, has been in the business since 2008 and says the most difficult aspect (due to load shedding) is dealing with irate customers.

“People are incredibly irate because what happens is, even when you have an inverter, it only covers certain appliances, so it doesnt cover the microwave, ovens, airfryer and things like that and most people don’t have the big inverters that cover all these items,” Mr Sarembock said.

“If you are busy with, for example, a load of washing or you leave your aircon on and the power comes back on there is a massive surge and that ends up blowing components in your appliances. I mean the amount of decoders being replaced is ridiculous and this is what I hear from clients,” he said.

Mr Sarembock says the size of your house and how many appliances are in a home will determine how much you spend on solar power.

“The first thing I would suggest is energy-efficient lights, everyone thinks it’s the geyser that uses the most electricity but if you have a big house with lots of lights, that does use a lot of electricity. Solar panels, inverters and lithium ion batteries are the way to go to relieve pressure on the grid,” he said.

“The components are expensive but to go completely off-grid depends on the size of your home and could cost anything from R250 000 and up – again it depends on the size of your home,” he said.

He adds that he owns a bakery too and due to load shedding has had to discard the ingredients as it spoils.

“I’ve had two ovens damaged due to load shedding, due to the surge when the power comes back on, and it costs R85 000 to replace an oven, so it’s affecting us negatively in so many aspects,” Mr Sarembock said.

According to Shameeg Pead of Pead Electrical in Bo-Kaap, people should consider a number of factors before purchasing any type of electrical back-up equipment.

“I have all the safety measures in place, surge protectors and so on, and my fridge died on me because of all the load shedding. You have to do homework regarding these power systems – some salesman will tell you there’s a five- or even 10-year guarantee on these back-up systems.Will these salespeople and these systems still be around in five or 10 years?” Mr Pead said.

“If you are not buying a decent system then you are throwing your money down the drain. I know of a friend who has a small inverter system and he now has to replace the battery once a year at least, so that becomes expensive in the long run. Rather get products from a reputable company because the cheap stuff will cost you,” he said.

Power banks and load-shedding globes are two more ways to lessen the difficulties associated with load shedding, according to Mr Pead.

A challenge for the City of Cape Town is that the water reservoirs are unable to fill up quickly enough due to the protracted load shedding and they have asked residents to use less water.

“Using less water will help deal with operational challenges, notably due to heavy load shedding, which are impacting on our water treatment plants and ability to convey good quality drinking water to reservoirs and areas across Cape Town, especially to high-lying areas where the water has to be pumped,”said acting mayoral committee member for water and sanitation, Siseko Mbandezi.

Cape Town mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, said that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) approved18.6% price increase is unfair, unaffordable, and unjust.

“South Africans are being asked to pay for corruption and mismanagement at Eskom in the most unfair, unaffordable and unjust way. Eskom has alternative ways to raise funds: by reducing their bloated payroll, by cutting suppliers who are over-charging especially for sub-standard coal, and by ending corruption, including recovering state capture loot,” said Mr Hill-Lewis.