Headlines can often inform, although sometimes they mislead. On occasions, they can amuse. A recent one in Engineering News was a belter. It reported that power parasital Eskom was desperate to land new industrial customers.
Those of us who have lived through the load-shedding (Eskom-speak for blackouts) nonsense which accompanied Eskom’s recent failures to keep the lights on will find it laughable that this useless utility has veered from asking us all to save power to a new situation where it is begging people to buy more of the stuff.
Of course, we all know why Eskom has a bit of extra capacity at the moment. The economy is growing at an annual rate of under 1%, so demand is subdued. When (if?) the economy picks up, demand will soar, and Eskom will be once again begging its customers to curb their consumption.
In the future, we will need more generation capacity, and government seems determined to spend a few trillion on a new fleet of nuclear power stations. This will no doubt delight anyone who owns uranium mines in South Africa (the Guptas) and anyone who can get his or her grubby little hands on a share of the tenders and cash envelopes which will surround the nuclear deal. If you thought South Africa’s arms procurement process was a charter for crooks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Of course, not everyone agrees that nuclear is the best way forward. A recent report by the CSIR state research centre casts doubts on the cost-effectiveness of nuclear, and suggests it might be cheaper to instead invest in gas and renewables. Less scope for corruption, so less enthusiasm from government.
One bit of advice which might be of help to South Africa’s industrial customers is to do as much as they can to reduce their reliance on Eskom – to adopt new energy-efficient technologies, to generate their own power wherever possible, to locate new plants where there will be supplies of (Eskom-free) gas.
For Eskom to be begging for new custom is a bit like Samsung saying that its phones and washing machines are great bargains. Just don’t plug them in or rely on them for anything other than decoration.
And what about Eskom? Well, the sooner it is dismantled and private sector expertise is brought in to run efficient and functioning generation units and transmission grids, the better. A well-managed supplier of elecricity may even be able to win new business without begging for it.
Tweet of the Day:
The QI Elves (@qikipedia): Word of the day: WHIPMEGMORUM (Scots) – a noisy quarrel about politics
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