How powers that be save energy

2013-05-05 14:00

If you visit Eskom boss Brian Dames at his home during winter, he is likely to point out one of his proudest material possessions: his green swimming pool.

Dames is one of the faces of SA’s energy and electricity sector. And, with new murmurings about load shedding and a tough, dark winter, City Press asked him how he puts his money where his mouth is.

He says his biggest electricity consumption is lighting, most of which he uses for security.

In a bid to save power at his Joburg home, Dames has installed two solar geysers and insulated his ceiling.

In winter, he says, he doesn’t use underfloor heating to warm up his home.

Instead, he and his family use wood-burning fireplaces and gas heaters. All cooking in his home is done on a gas stove and public enemy number one is the kettle – it’s been banned.

If Dames fancies a cup of tea, he boils water on the gas stove.

And his green pool? He decommissions the pool pump to save power during the chilly winter months when having a sparkling blue pool makes little sense.

Meanwhile, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, the woman tasked with championing all things green, says she couldn’t possibly do her job justice if she didn’t apply smart power-saving techniques at her home and at work.

The challenge, Molewa explains, is not only publicly leading South Africa’s efforts to address the global climate change crisis, but to set an example as an individual.

Before she stepped into the green seat in 2010, Molewa says she’d installed a solar water heater, energy efficient lights and external security lights set on motion detectors at her family home.

“However, as you are aware, due to security requirements, ministers live in accommodation provided by the department of public works,” she says. “This (her ministerial home) has been fitted with energy efficient lights and motion-sensor external security lighting.”

She and her family work hard to save energy in their daily lives. “We do switch off lights, the geyser and other appliances when rooms aren’t in use, but we also support other habits such as reuse and recycling of waste.”

In her professional life, Molewa is leading the charge to get public works to retrofit all public buildings in a bid for nationwide energy efficiency.

The minister is trying to come up with a plan to offset her carbon miles – racked up through a lot of flying back and forth for meetings. “The challenge I face with offsetting is not only the offsetting of my own carbon miles but those of my staff as well.

“In this regard, I have facilitated the installation of a concentrated solar plant at the site of the new environmental affairs building in Pretoria. This solar power installation is up and running and feeds into the Pretoria grid.”

The whole environmental department will soon have a fleet of electric vehicles, which will be charged with renewable solar power.

Molewa hopes this is just the beginning. She’d love it if the government’s fleet could one day comprise electric cars only.

“Related to this travel initiative, my departments will be introducing a shuttle service for staff that can, on a daily basis, take advantage of the train mode of transport – particularly the Gautrain – not only reducing carbon miles but also traffic congestion.”

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