As South Africa braces itself for winter, Eskom has announced that consumers need to start saving power (particularly during peak periods) if they want to avoid blackouts during the colder months. Citing maintenance needs, the utility plans to shut nine units in different power stations around the country, removing some 2000 megawatts of capacity a day. The planned maintenance will run for 120 days.
The announcement didn't go down well with investors and according to various reports, the rand slumped to its lowest level in a month.
It stands to reason that things can go wrong during such an extensive maintenance exercise and Mike Schussler, chief economist at Economists.co.za, noted that people have to prepare for blackouts in one form or another. "If you have nine units down, any unplanned outages are going to be catastrophic. We may even have to adjust our [economic] growth forecasts downward," he said.
Economics aside, the news that we could be faced with rolling blackouts has left most South Africans feeling more than a little jittery. Memories of load shedding and the chaos it caused five years ago are still fresh in our minds and to be honest, no one could blame consumers for being annoyed at the parastatal’s inability to get things right and guarantee that the lights will stay switched on. However, getting angry about a situation that is completely out of our control isn't going to help anyone and we need to turn our focus to ways in which we can help save electricity in order to keep the power outages at bay.
According to a report by HOMEMAKERSonline, South African households, on average, use electricity in the following ways:
Space heating and cooling: 18%
Fridges and freezers: 8%
Consumer electronics: 5%
Consumer electronics on standby mode: 15%
Eskom is urging consumers to avoid using excessive power during peak times. Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba has noted that the demand for electricity rises by as much as 3 000 megawatts between the hours of 5:00pm and 9:00pm. With this in mind, it is essential that consumers use less power during these times. Here are a few tips to help you help Eskom.
• Those who are in a position to do so, should consider cooking their main meal at lunchtime and snacking in the evening.
• Eskom has also recommended that consumers turn off their geysers during peak times.
• Turn off as many lights as possible.
• Change the timer on the pool filter and run the motor during the day. Remember that algae grows at a much slower pace during the winter months and as such, the filter does not have to run as often as in the summer months.
• Shut down and switch off electronic gadgets that are not in use. It has been estimated that in some households, appliances on standby mode use the equivalent of leaving a 100 watt light bulb burning for a year. Unplug the microwave if not in use and recharge phones during off peak times. Turn off the DVD player, hi-fi and any other gadget that draws unnecessary current during peak times.
• Consider investing in a gas heater.
In a way, Eskom may just be doing us a favour by forcing us to cut back on the amount of electricity we consume - it will save us money and hopefully will allow Eskom to keep the lights on.