By Howard Feldman
The conversation started poorly and deteriorate from there. “Triple or single phase?” was his opening gambit. And already I was stumped. “How do I tell?” was my weak retort … and already I could feel his eyes rolling on the other side of the phone.
It was going to be a tough conversation for me. But worse for him.
“Alright,” he said: “At your highest demand hour, what is your electricity consumption?” Silence. “I assume you have installed LED lights and that your geysers are on timers?” He took my nonresponse as confirmation, and so the excruciating conversation continued.
When the call came to a miserable end, I realised how little I had given away. So much so, that I am sure he thought I worked for Intelligence. The truth be told, it was because I really am in the dark when it comes to this stuff (see what I did there?).
I am by no means stupid, but the discussion about possibly moving to solar, made me feel moronic. I have no idea how many kilowatts I need (or what it is), how much electricity I consume in the day versus the evening and if I prefer lithium over the other sort (I do apparently).
There was information that I did have. Like my address and cellphone contact number. And I knew how much I pay City Power for the electricity that they do provide when they choose to. But aside from that, I was not able to shed much light on anything.
It took me back to the horror of trying to buy a laptop. As if walking into Incredible Connection for the first time all those years ago meant that I knew my RAM from my gigabytes. Or the speed of my processor. I didn’t. Or buying a camera with an impressive number of mega pixels or more currently, how many liters a self-respecting JoJo tank should be able to hold on a dry day.
I do know my US dollars to rands, kilograms to pounds and miles to kilometers. I’m also comfortable talking internet speed, but that is about it as far as numbers go.
That was enough, until Eskom and their unholy alliance with the African National Congress forced us to become electrical engineers. And not just ordinary ones. We have been asked to specialise further in sustainable and renewable energy. We need to know how much diesel we might need per working hour and how much generation capacity a 25 kva generator might produce.
Because coal is apparently so last century. And it gets wet.
The transition from being infectious disease experts to masters of electric current, was swift. From COVID incubation periods and R numbers (being the rate of infection), to the size and storage capacity of our inverters, the output of our generators and the megawatts required to reduce load shedding by stage, our language and knowledge has ramped up at an impressive rate. Because whereas we might have deluded ourselves until now that the ANC and the Eskom might solve the problem which they created, it is patently clear that they have no idea where to begin.
Luckily for them, the whole country is now in training and might well be able to step in advice and them in no time at all. The positive to this whole debacle is that 60 million people are having on the ground training to be able to become Eskom board members. Especially as every South African is now able to interpret load shedding schedules and everyone’s old aunt is able to debate the merits of solar over wind turbines.
Glass half full: The ANC might not have been able to solve the education crises effectively, but with loadshedding, they have forced us to educate ourselves.
Just as they have forced us to solve the crisis on our own.
South Africans are resourceful. They will find solutions that will make them less dependent on the one power utility. The consequence will be that less will be demanded on Eskom and that they will have made themselves irrelevant.
Like the ANC itself.
Loadshedding education – powered by the ANC.