Eskom to push for South Africans to cycle for energy

2015-04-01 00:00

WITH winter around the corner, Eskom is expecting a spike in electricity consumption. The embattled power utility has come up with an innovative strategy to supplement its reserves over the cold months, while getting an increasingly sedentary nation moving.

Eskom, backed by the Health Department, announced late yesterday that it would use an emergency sitting of the National Assembly, scheduled for April 12, to push through legislation that would make it compulsory for all South Africans to cycle for a minimum of 30 minutes every day to help save the utility.

“As a pragmatic and cheap way of generating electricity, all households will be required to purchase a Power-Up stationary bicycle, which will convert mechanical energy into electrical current via an inverter,” said Eskom spokesperson E.N.G. Little in a statement.

Little said each person in a home over the age of eight would be required to pedal the bicycle for 30 minutes per day in order to continue receiving electricity. Extra minutes could be cycled and banked if you are planning to be away from home — on holiday, for example — he said.

Health Department spokesperson Les Waite said it was backing the initiative because in addition to possibly bringing an end to load shedding, it would also ensure a healthier South Africa, which is fast becoming one of the world’s most obese nations.

Waite said the bicycles, which Eskom would supply but would be paid off via a bicycle levy on utility bills, would come in small, medium and large sizes, ensuring that children could also do their bit for the nation’s electricity crisis.

Those who were unfit could start off slowly in bouts of five minutes, six times a day. If the power situation was critical at any given time, Eskom would issue an alert requiring people to pedal faster.

“It’s a logical way to get the nation moving and to help the energy challenge,” said Waite.

The initiative is not restricted to households; businesses would also have to buy the stationary cycles and pedal for their power.

Reaction from industry was largely positive yesterday, with many companies telling The Witness they would replace chairs with bicycles and make it mandatory for office workers to pedal at their desks while working, or on a rotational basis if they did not have desk-bound jobs.

However, Cosatu spokesperson Thuli S. Down expressed outrage at the proposal last night, saying they would address the issue during the current wage negotiation cycle.

The measure would remain in place until the Kusile and Medupi power plants were commissioned, when it would become optional in terms of a policy where the cyclists would earn credits for power generated and weight lost.

Little said: “It will be the great leveller. From the president to CEOs of major corporations, to the lowliest worker, everyone will have to take part. It will be a healthy practice which will contribute to weight loss and general health. It will increase productivity in South Africa by reducing sick leave.”


The cycling action will charge a battery pack feeding an inverter which will feed back into the electricity grid.

If you don’t feed once every 24 hours back into the grid, your electricity supply will be cut until you start pedalling again.

You must cycle at at least 15 km/h to power the grid.

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