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Lloyd Macfarlane
 
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Electricity consumption dropped by 0.5% in 2013

17 February 2014, 10:22  - Lloyd Macfarlane
Eskom’s calls for consumers to use electricity wisely and conserve power whenever possible are being heard. The report by Statistics SA that electricity consumption dropped by 0.5% in 2013 compared to 2012 is testimony to this consumer response.

We need to maintain and increase this trend if Eskom is to keep the lights on and power the country’s economic development over the next few years.

Until multiple units of Eskom’s new power stations come on line in 2015 and 2016, the margin between supply and demand is going to be very tight. That means that Eskom is going to need significant support from consumers in the form of energy savings.

Through its 49m campaign, Eskom is encouraging South African companies and individual consumers to commit to a 10% saving in their energy usage. The website www.49m.co.za contains energy-saving tips and enables consumers to sign up for the 10% savings pledge.

The impact of Eskom’s initiatives to manage demand has been considerable. Since the programme started in 2005, nearly 3 600MW of energy efficiency savings have been achieved – enough to power a city the size of Johannesburg.

The Power Bulletin and Power Alert notifications televised during the evening peak between 5pm and 9pm have on average resulted in a reduction of 348MW in electricity usage during the red flightings.

Eskom’s chief executive, Brian Dames, has publicly thanked consumers for heeding the call to reduce usage and called on all consumers to make energy efficiency part of their lifestyles.

The 49M initiative encourages this change. It aims to inspire and rally all South Africans behind a common goal – save electricity and create a better economic, social and environmental future for all.
Saving power is really about changing attitudes. By simply making small changes in our everyday life, collectively we can make a massive difference.

As the Stats SA report shows, South Africans are responding, but further efforts are needed. Meeting the 10% savings goal will require increased savings from all consumers: residential, business and industrial.
Those savings are needed throughout the year. Summer is Eskom’s main maintenance period, when power stations units are taken off line for essential maintenance, enabling more units to be on line for the higher demand in winter.

Summer is when demand is high throughout the day, affected principally by the use of air conditioners and geysers in homes and offices. In winter, demand soars in the evening peak period when householders cook, bath and turn on heaters for warmth.

Eskom’s call is for all South Africans to “live lightly” this summer, reducing demand by using air conditioners sparingly and set at 23 degrees, switching off unused lights or appliances and ensuring that geysers and pool pumps are off in the evening peak between 5pm and 9pm.

And, as we head into winter, Eskom’s message is that “less is more” – the less electricity each customer uses, the more there is to go round.

If we are to get to the 10% savings level, all customers will have to contribute. Households, municipalities and the commercial sector all need to manage their electricity use.  Significant savings are possible in large office blocks and shopping centres.

The 0.5% reduction is welcome, but there is still a long way to go.

-  Lloyd Macfarlane is the Chief Executive Officer at GSA Campbell Sustainability Consulting and a Director at Alive2green, South Africa’s premier sustainability media company.

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