And so we finally take a closer look at whats going down at Eskom. You want to know why electricity charges must escalate right away? For starters: in the past we ran a handful of gas turbines for two or three hours a day to meet peak demand. Today were rushing to have 50 turbines and those weve got were running 24/7. The crunch: it costs 18c a unit to generate electricity from coal; with the rapidly rising cost of diesel, gas-generated electricity already costs 128c a unit seven times as much! Thats just one detail that didnt make it into our lead story.
In our story, like a physician, we do rake over a whole range of unhappy developments at Eskom. The power utility is the heart that pumps the life blood of the country, so its as well to pay close attention to every possible symptom of disease.
A bit dramatic, you say? Not at all.
Consider this: South Africas electricity grid is designed to operate at 50Hz, requiring a constant, delicate balance between the amount of power fed into it by several types of generator across the country, and the amount drawn off it nationwide by a vastly complex network of consumers. If the load on the grid rises above 51Hz or falls below 49Hz heart attack! not just your suburb, but the entire national grid will close down.
Restarting the national grid is so complicated it could take weeks, even months, to phase in supply and demand gradually, sector by sector, while maintaining the fine balance at 50Hz. Lose it and you must start over. Thats assuming we still have people with the skills and intimate knowledge of our particular network to do it.
Imagine what happens in the meantime ... when lights dont come on and sewage, water and petrol pumps stop working ... when trains stop and petrol tanks and diesel generators run dry. (Yes, and the mines flood and the smelters freeze over.)
Our national electricity grid is controlled by an obsolete computer system (bought over 30 years ago from the Swiss), based at a national control centre. This directs half a dozen regional network control centres, which used to be manned by about 400 highly skilled career personnel as experienced, and scarce, as air traffic controllers. Today, despite special pay packages and an on-site gym, less than half remain and they keep leaving.
The governments ill-conceived BEE programme (frequently simply a deployment of party hands and the well-connected) has left any number of services at the point of collapse (tryHome Affairs for size), inducing a sense of creeping paralysis; but if it continues at Eskom, the consequence will be quick and catastrophic.
What can one expect from a policy that tells white South Africans they only have a job (and a future) for as long as it takes to replace them with a black, tokenly qualified ANC member? No surprise that qualified whites emigrate or lack motivation, leaving the half-qualified and unmotivated doing a half-baked job. The logic is simple, the insult to all concerned profound.
We dont need to spend billions (which we dont have) in a state of chaotic panic on vast new nuclear power stations; we need to clean out the well-connected duds at Megawatt Park and replace them with competent managers, no matter
As a matter of policy we must offer all South Africans a future. Its not a question of political disposition, its a question of survival. By now, all South Africans should know that. Those who dont, must have it explained urgently.
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