Friday, May 20, 2016

No More Load Shedding? Don't Rejoice Just Yet

My post published in News24
Dated 09 May 2016

Load Shedding.
First experienced in South Africa around April of 2008.
By March of 2014 we were already bracing for long, cold winters as our state power utility Eskom warned the nation of it’s inability to keep up with electricity supply.
Then last week our President joyfully informed us that Load Shedding was a thing of the past.
No more load shedding? Don’t rejoice just yet.

Before we pop the champagne and celebrate our victory over dark forces, let us unpack this announcement and shine a light on how we got here.
Quoting megawatt production and supply capacity from power stations would be a snore fest quite honestly. To the man in the street who is paying higher tariff rates and more per month on his electricity bill, Eskom’s data on consumption is like the number of illegal immigrants crossing into our borders. We know its high; we know something needs to be done; but quite frankly there’s not much we can do about it.
What we do know is that Eskom asked NERSA (National Energy Regulator Of South Africa) for R22Billion for the 2016/17 financial year, and they were told to bugger off (in more diplomatic terms of course.)
Eskom then said they couldn’t guarantee that the country’s lights would remain on. A veiled threat, but a threat nonetheless. NERSA subsequently granted Eskom R11.2Billion.
Still not convinced that this would solve the problem, Eskom took it’s brightest (oh the irony) and sharpest analysts (and I’m guessing anyone and everyone in management who felt they deserved a holiday paid for by the taxpayer) to a 3-day retreat in order to start the spend on that R11.2Billion paycheck in earnest.

Somewhere between a cut of Wagyu steak and a glass of Pinot Noir (note previous point above as to who was footing the bill for this retreat), an Eskom genius (already on the WWF endangered species list) realized that consumption figures for electricity were falling. This would ease the need for electricity supply. This in turn would take the strain off the power utility. Ultimately meaning that Eskom no longer needed as much as R22Billion to keep the lights on! EUREKA!

Armed with this fantastic news on Day 1 of the retreat, management decided that 2 more days of pampering were in order. After all, the country had just been saved a whopping R11Billion electricity bill!
When management finally did present these new findings to Number 1, Nkandla was forgotten and the new Presidential Jet was ordered.
The South African Money Tree is so fertile and our cup just runneth over and over and over.
Blessed is this land we call Africa!

Economists and analysts will tell you that true electricity consumption is down for the following reasons:
* Eskom electricity production has been declining since 2007
* Consumers and businesses are becoming more electricity efficient
* The biggest consumer of electricity (mines, smelters and big business) have been laying off staff, shutting down operations and down-scaling
* Alternate energy producers have entered the playing field
But let’s be honest, what do economists and analysts really know?
None of them have R250million homes or fly in R4Billion jets.

Eskom not implementing load shedding and our government celebrating this, is like celebrating our annual road death toll figures coming down because we’ve started removing our tarred roads and national highways.
I won’t be celebrating the unemployment levels, loss of mine jobs, inefficiencies at our power stations and consumers just so annoyed and frustrated at load shedding that they’ve had to find alternate means to keep their lights on.
I certainly won’t be celebrating the news that load shedding is a thing of the past.
Those dark forces will simply come back in another form to bite us in the butt!

If there is any lesson to be learned from this whole sorry saga, and one that our esteemed ministers (sleeping and awake) should certainly take heed to, it’s this:
If we fail to plan, we should plan to fail.