The silver lining is yours for the taking

If only Eskom had been privatised years ago and the electricity generation industry been de-regulated. We wouldn’t be sitting with the chronic electricity shortage that we are faced with currently.

There’s a barrage of other “if onlys” that would apply to the electricity crisis. Like “if only government had responded appropriately to Eskom’s planning – and heeded to its warnings about capacity – or the lack thereof.”

Yet complaining about government’s sheer ineptitude and Eskom’s incompetence isn’t going to stop the loadshedding. We need to be proactive and innovative without letting them off the hook.

In the past Eskom has offered too little to independent power producers to encourage them to generate additional capacity for the state-owned monopoly to purchase (all electricity has to go through Eskom and is then distributed by municipalities to the consumer). Now, stuck as it is between a rock and hard place, Eskom may have no option but to offer attractive prices.

Here’s a great opportunity. Some are already seizing it – according to Friday’s Business Day, a UK firm, IPSA, has offered to build gas turbines to supply electricity to the Coega Industrial Development Zone in the Eastern Cape, thus ensuring large foreign investments like the Alcan smelter aren’t jeopardised due to a lack of power.

It’s time that others stepped forward. We live in a country with lots of wind – and massive amounts of sunlight. It’s time we took advantage of this. In Germany a solar- and wind-powered village sells its excess electricity to the state – imagine the potential of a programme like that in this country!

Of course such an initiative can only be achieved through the commoditisation of solar panels and other means of generating electricity in the home. To stimulate home power generation, such items could be VAT-exempt or at least partially subsidised in the initial phase of the rollout.

With our prevaricating government and an Eskom that can’t seem to see beyond nuclear and coal power – both which will take years to ameliorate an already desperate situation – it appears that lateral thinking and bold action from the private sector are the only ways out of this mess.

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