In darkness there lies opportunity

2008-04-04 00:00

Since November 2007, I have been overseas a lot and, having now returned, I have learned about Eskom’s difficulties. However sad it is, it seems that Eskom needs help and in offering mine, I trust I am not repeating what others have been saying.

Firstly, Eskom, I am one of the good guys. My year-on-year power usage over the past 12 months is down 19% and my costs are down more than 10%. We run a small dairy farm, selling all our products privately. This includes milk, butter, yoghurt, cheese, etc. We have had great fun thinking up ways of lowering our usage, but more on that later.

I have a few questions for Eskom. Do you want us to reduce our power usage by 10%, or do you want us to transfer our power usage to off-peak periods?

When I was in England recently, I discovered that the electricity supplier offers lower charges for usage at off-peak periods. It is called night storage rates. Wouldn’t this help to introduce a discount for overnight power usage? You wouldn’t have to keep telling us, via advertising, to switch our geysers off, etc, we would automatically do it. So you would save advertising costs as well. No doubt the cost of introducing such a scheme would be large, but think of the savings in power usage during the peak periods.

Secondly, wouldn’t this approach be positive in the sense of communication? Right now it seems that everyone is shouting at each other. We are blaming each other and no one seems to be listening.

I found that in England there are also problems, but the people there are prepared to make jokes about them and in doing so a lot of the anger is dispelled. Why doesn’t your marketing team take the lead and offer prizes for the best electricity joke each day, week or month. This would surely ease the pain for everyone.

A few years back, there was a massive power failure in the United States. Nine months later there was a baby boom. I hope we are preparing for what may be coming our way as the outages continue. How much extra child grant funding will we need in 12 months time? How many more schools and teachers will we need in six years time? How many more jobs in 20 years? We should start the planning process now.

When I was last in Ghana I met a former Cabinet minister, and over a beer, he said: “It’s taken us more than 40 years to recognise the infrastructure the British left behind.”

Why do we keep blaming so much on our past? Yes, it was grim, but let’s move on and focus on the good things that we have inherited. If we don’t start soon it is going to take a lot longer before we can start rebuilding this great country.

As I said earlier, I will tell you how we managed to cut our power usage on our farm. With hindsight it looks so easy. We used to cool the milk that our cows produced, keep it cold and then supply customers. The cost of keeping the milk cold was enormous. While we were away, a young chap from down the road started to buy our milk. He left it to stand in the sun and sold it to his friends as sour milk or maas. Now we supply maas as well. We can’t produce enough and our cooling tanks work only 10% of the time they used to.

I look forward to readers suggesting other ways we can save power or transfer its use to off-peak periods.

Maybe The Witness would like to start a regular feature for contributors, and it could ask Eskom to provide prizes for the best suggestions.

Here’s to more power through the winter.

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