Powering ahead to a powerless future

Reddit Snoo

My daily scribblings are guided sometimes by circumstances, sometimes by trending topics and sometimes by random thoughts during the course of the day. Tonight my typed thoughts are influenced by the fact that we are experiencing one of our coldest days, it is extremely wet and it has been windy – and we have no power.

The wet, cold and the wind are one thing, both are part of winter and living in Port Elizabeth. The power, that’s a whole other issue.

Humanity has advanced to the point where we, without mastering the elements, have created comfortable and cozy spaces for ourselves. Places where we can relax, where we can share family moments, where we can learn and play, pursue interests and hobbies, places where we can live. They might be large, comfortable, well-equipped spaces or they might be the most rudimentary.

They all have one thing in common, they are ours.

We have become used to, and expect, a certain standard from these places. Warmth, light, the opportunity to use modern electric and electronic conveniences. These are our “unlocked achievements” provided for by the hard work we do, by what we earn and by what we build.

What we don’t enjoy is when our comforts, lavish or mean as they might be, are compromised through no fault of our own. When I sit here in the dark, hoping my batteries last long enough that I can finish writing, I feel a growing tide of resistance to the situation we find ourselves in.

Oh sure, you can call it “first-world problems” if you like, that I need to worry a lack of battery power to complete a blog post but it does not negate that fact that we all have a power problem. People relying on a single electric light to avoid using paraffin, a basic electric heater or a small electric stove find themselves in the same predicament and dismissing my concerns does nothing to make their lives better.

Arguing amongst ourselves about who suffers more, who is more or less privileged and who carries a greater impact is distracting. It distracts us from the real creators of this mess and the people who do not have the will to fix the problem. Seriously, we have lived with the euphemistically titled “loadshedding” – a nice name for rolling national blackouts – since 2007. In 13 years little has changed and little is expected to change in the near future either.

When this problem started, the ruling party said “the economy has grown faster than expected, so we have run out of electricity”. Target growth up until 2004 was 6%, the reality was 3.1%. So at half the projected growth we had no power. We were also told it would take until 2012 to sort the problem out. It is now the second half of 2020.

The fun part, and I use that term entirely sarcastically, is that the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) has indicated that these national blackouts are going to get worse. Their projections indicate that in 2022 it will be as much as 4,500GWh. How much is 4,500GWh you ask?

In 2019 the loadshedding schedule saw us penalised to the tune of 1,352GWh – so 4,500GWh is a shedload more loadshedding. Now doesn’t that just sound fabulous?

There’s another problem here, and it isn’t even the coming electricity cost increases. Those are going to be significant in their own right, but the real issue here will come from demand. The country has to build according to demand and projected future demand. While the emergency situation continues, those with the means – both individuals and companies – will be putting measures in place to mitigate their power consumption and avoid needing power at all where possible.

You would think that translates to “Hooray, more for us!” but no. The correct translation is that electricity becomes far more expensive because someone needs to pay for the repaired and new infrastructure. Someone has to carry that debt burden and if there are fewer customers, it means they need to pay more while getting less. It’s a grim situation all round. Remember, this is the scenario if there is specific, targeted action taking place right now with no political dithering or interference. Chances?

On a final note, have you spent any time with Snoo? An alien that travelled across the galaxy to experience the “diversity of humanity”, Snoo is the Reddit mascot. Snoo is shorthand for “What’s new?” and was doodled by Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder. Why should you care about Reddit? Well, the site is the “front page of the internet”. People just like you post every imaginable type of content there, in pretty much every category you can think of. Instead of finding friends and connecting with them, you connect with topics of interest to you. Give it a try if you haven’t created a weird and crazy username for yourself there already.

Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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