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Switch off the beer fridges, says Lynne Brown

Feb 19 2015 08:09
Donwald Pressly

Cape Town - Getting rid of electricity-guzzling beer and cold drink fridges in bottle stores may be one way of preventing load shedding, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said in the debate on the president’s State of the Nation speech in Parliament.

Brown said the idea came unsolicited from a Mr Cammy Fernandes, a retailer from Gordon’s Bay who expressed sadness about the predicament “with regard to (state power monopoly) Eskom”.

Although the minister said she laughed at his power-cutting suggestion at first, he proposed that “we get rid of walk-in fridges in bottle stores, which … for those who are unfamiliar with the inside of liquor outlets … are used to store mainly beer and soft drinks”.

“On average these are about 50 cubic metres in size and guzzle electricity,” she noted.

“My initial reaction was to laugh, However, when I thought about it, I began to appreciate his letter,” she said, noting that he had pointed out that the cold drinks and beers were “almost never consumed immediately”. If one were to get rid of these fridges “we would reduce load shedding”, Fernandes told the minister.

The minister said that Fernandes had written to her without any thought of personal gain and had provided a significant part of the solution to the load shedding problem which was “changing our behaviour and habits in relation to the use of electricity”.

Brown said that the electricity supply challenge “when reduced to its simplest formulation” is that the demand for power is higher “than the available supply… on some days”. As a consequence Eskom is reducing every consumer’s supply “as equitably as possible for a part of the day through load shedding”.

The minister insisted that the main problem is not that South Africa does not have enough generating capacity. “As I have said … before, when all the power stations are up and running at the same time, we have much more electricity than the very highest level of demand in any year.

“We have about 15% more than we need… technically that is referred to as the reserve margin and globally, 15% is considered an acceptable level.”

The reason this additional generating capacity is needed is to ensure that there is enough supply to cover switch-offs of some units in power plants “so that you can maintain them and replace certain parts” and, second, to cover problems relating to the collapse of components of power plants – such as the coal silo at the Majuba power station.

The minister said there is a multi-pronged approach to resolving the issue of procurement. This includes carrying out emergency repairs at Majuba, plans in place to replace the boiler at Eskom’s Duvha power station, Eskom's fast-tracking of the building of Medupi, Kusile and Ingula, and, fourthly, the speeding up by government and Eskom of the regulatory process to allow cogeneration contracts between Eskom and the private sector.

Medupi, Kusile and Ingula are expected to add 10 000 MW to the grid between June this year and May 2020, she said.

The government is also running “a process of procuring additional longer-term cogeneration from the private sector independent power producers… there has been a good response to the request for expressions of interest… it is envisaged that this will add 800 MW to the grid over 18 months,” Brown reported to MPs.

The government is also “expediting” the process of bringing more renewable IPPs on to the grid through the third and fourth renewable energy procurement windows, she said.

On the demand side, government is in discussions with business and labour to discover “the feasibility of other innovative proposals for reducing demand at peak periods such as making changes to shift times”.

In an appeal to the public, the minister said there is a list of energy saving steps to take including installing energy efficient light bulbs, switching off geysers “when we go away”, turning off lights in offices at night, not using air conditioners unnecessarily, using gas rather than electricity for cooking and heating and ensuring street lights are off during daylight hours.

lynne brown  |  sa economy  |  load shedding  |  electricity


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