Beyond Eskom

2008-01-24 00:00

Some years ago, Eskom embarked on a project in the Table Mountain area of our province. This, known as a pump-storage scheme, involved the development of electricity capacity by harnessing the advantages of the topography. A reservoir constructed at a high point was to be filled by pumping water from below. When released to run down the slope, the water would generate electricity. Apparently, the Table Mountain site offered ideal conditions for such a scheme.

Now we are faced with the bizarre reality of a supplier (commercial and corporate insofar as its trappings are concerned) trying to reduce the demand of its customers so that deficiencies in its supply will not appear so bad. That we are all called upon to make sacrifices in the national interest is understandable, for the crisis cannot be resolved in the immediate, or even the short, term. But I think there are some things that we should guard against. The first of these is that load shedding cannot become a way of life, a habitual practice to which we all become accustomed. It is a temporary way of managing a crisis and the management of a crisis does not resolve it. Secondly, while it is politically correct to reduce wastefulness of energy sources and to find ways of reducing demand, the shortage is not the fault of the consumer. We must play our part but it is not for us to solve the problem. Thirdly, considering the economic aspirations of the country and the many projects to which we are already committed, the critical area of focus should be the supply. Like expenditure in a business, we must eliminate waste, but prosperity is really possible only when the income is increased. Thus, an increase in the supply must quite aggressively outweigh the extent of the savings that may be effected.

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