Back in 1998, Eskom started making noises about South Africa’s power grid “running out of capacity” come 2008 if steps weren’t taken.
And yet in 2008, just a short year after the first iPhone was released (blows my mind), there was general surprise when South Africans found themselves being load-shedded. Alongside much updating of BBM status.
In 2015, we’re still being surprised by the load-shedding. Only this time, alongside much twitter ranting on our iPhone sixes.
Even after Eskom had been saying “We’re not allowed to charge enough for us to do proper maintenance. We’re not recovering our costs. This is a problem. You’re not listening. You all get high-horsed about our proposed tariff increases, and then you moan about our service delivery. You can’t have cheap electricity and good service delivery at the same time. You might feel like you have a right to it. But in the end, that’s almost entirely irrelevant. Because economics and facts of life.”*
*Give or take some paraphrasing.
On the topic of other warnings that we’re ignoring:
Who is most prepared for Global Warming and the Coming Climate Apocalypse?
Now I have no actual reference for this, but I’d like to say:
There was a moment in 1998/1999, back when Zimbabwe was on the cusp of all the drama that was to ensue, that I was in the car with my parents, driving past all the fuel queues that had sprouted around the empty fuel stations of Harare. I had just started high school. And already, many people had started to put their permit applications in for Australia “just in case”.
My parents were not part of that collective move.
And being the kind of adolescent that was frequently caught up in the FOMO, I began asking what lows we would have to reach before we too would be moving to Australia (I had particularly high hopes of going to a high school with a better library and newer books*).
*It’s this sort of nerdishness that should explain why I was so caught up in the FOMO.
Question: “What if we can’t buy milk any more?”*
*Apparently, I was really concerned about the milk. To the point where I was advocating immigration in order to have it freely available.
Answer: “If that happens, I’m sure we’ll make a plan.”
Question: “But what if there’s no more electricity?”
Answer: “Even then.”
Question: “And, but, what about if we can’t get food?”
Answer: “I’m sure that we’re not going to run out of food.”
Question: “And water? What about if there’s no more water?”
Answer: “Jayson! We are not moving to Australia. We will just deal with it as it comes.”
Now I’m not sure if that was just what my parents were saying to stop all the questioning. But as time went on:
- The milk ran out at all the shops.
- The electricity would disappear for days at a time.
- Food lost its variety.
- And by 2001, our house had stopped receiving water through the municipal pipes (to this day, water out of the municipal tap is worthy of a comment and the subsequent “You’re joking!” response).
But by then:
- Everyone had their personal suppliers (imported milk powder from South Africa, small-scale farmers for milk, buying meat directly from the piggeries and chicken farms, etc).
- Everyone had installed inverters and generators, which they’d run on jealously-guarded supplies of fuel.
- Most houses had installed large water tanks which were filled up with water from one of the boreholes on your property, or they were topped up by water deliverymen who would arrive with large water tankers as needed.
So when people ask me “How is life up there?”
My response is always “Well, we’re quite self-sufficient. So, pretty excellent.”
Back to South Africa’s Energy Crisis
Last week, I became a real adult and purchased an inverter. Yesterday, I bought the batteries.
The system will keep my lights on during load-shedding. And the batteries will charge when the power comes back on, from 10pm onwards, when Eskom’s power generation capacity far exceeds the demand.
Sure, it’s not the cheapest thing I’ve ever done (my guess is that it’ll be about a R10,000 investment all-in – because the batteries are not cheap). But going forward, every time there is a power cut, there will be a slight flicker of the lights during the changeover, and I won’t even notice.
No ranting on twitter.
No interrupted dinner parties.
Just a moment of gratitude for the fact that I have it when I realise that I can’t run the kettle.
Originally, I was going to do you a valuation forecast to work out just how much the inverter will cost you per hour of load-shedding.
But the truth is, sometimes, there really is just Mastercard.
And/or Visa. But they don’t have the catchy tagline.
PS: also, you’ll be better prepared for the Climate Apocalypse.