Pinch yourself: Koeberg became a net user of electricity

Share this...

By Howard Feldman

If only the Koeberg power station had installed solar panels along with an inverter and a few family-sized batteries, the situation might have not been so bad. Whereas the facility would not have been able to run their ovens or geysers and could likely not have been able to use their tumble dryers to dry their washing, at least they would not have had to draw power from the grid.

That is something that must have been quite embarrassing, especially given that the only reason that Koeberg exists, is to provide power to the country. It is no different to a loan shark asking a client if they could spare a few bob, or a garage asking if you had any spare petrol in the boot because they were in a little bit of a spot.

It’s simply not how things are meant to work.

It is also likely the reason that the utility neglected to mention the breakdown to the country, until they absolutely had to: so much so that the confirmation that Koeberg Unit 2 tripped on Saturday, only came about four hours after energy expert Chris Yelland tweeted about the incident.  

“Upon my request,” said Yelland, “Eskom has confirmed to me that Koeberg Unit 2 tripped in the early hours of this morning.”

With Koeberg Unit 1 also down for the replacement of its steam generators and refuelling, the nuclear power station was providing no power to South Africa’s grid. No power. Nothing.

Not enough to charge an iPhone.

In fact, as Yelland pointed out, Koeberg was actually putting demand on the grid, as it required electricity to avoid a meltdown.

The Koeberg power situation, like many things in South Africa, is a symbol of a greater problem, not only in terms of communication, but in terms of the uselessness of it all.

What is becoming more apparent, is that the private sector has accepted that the electricity crisis will not be solved by government. With residential homes, schools, shopping centres and businesses moving to renewable energy, it is only a matter of time until the electricity supply of the country will be almost fully deregulated. And, whereas solar power might not be the solution (at this stage) for heavy industry, it unquestionably is the answer for a significant amount of the demand in many other sectors.

Which is all well good if we conveniently forget that many in the country are unemployed and living below the bread line. No matter how “affordable” solar installations might be, they remain out of reach for a significant percentage of the country.

What that also means, is that through their failure so deal with this crisis, the ANC continues to punish the poor of the country. And although there are a number of options for cash strapped South Africans to finance the installation, there are many who simply cannot afford it.

Electricity supply can now be added to healthcare, education and security, where those who can afford it, have access to the best in the world, while those who can’t are dished out some of the worst.

Which is ironic if one considers that the ANC was a liberation movement.

It was a funny-not funny-at- all turn of events that could only happen in South Africa, namely that the Koeberg power plant became a net user of electricity, albeit for a short while. For a few days at least, they added to the pressure on an already constrained system.

As a solution, I would suggest that Koeberg chats to one of the many solar providers who can offer them finance options that will allow them to run some of the facility, excluding their ovens, geysers and, of course, will not allow them to use their ovens.

Which is pretty much how the rest of the country lives.