All the elements for a perfect storm in our country’s power supply are currently present. Those who want to avoid it, must make their own plans.
The fact that Eskom's power generating units are old and prone to breaking down is nothing new. The same is true for units that must be withdrawn from the power grid for critical and overdue maintenance work.
Over the past few weeks, the unpredictable effects of the Eastern European war have also come into play. Crude oil prices have skyrocketed, so the consequent increase in the diesel price is sure to follow. The precarious situation may continue for months on end, or peace may be made within a matter of days – the unpredictability only makes matters worse.
The diesel price is significant for power supply because open-cycle diesel power generators are the only available technology that can be implemented at short notice to mitigate the effects of unforeseen breakdowns or periods of peak power usage. It can quickly become unaffordable. Eskom has already issued warnings of stage 7 load shedding.
At present, financing is another obstacle. Banks ought to design and offer custom solutions, similar to vehicle financing. A system for generating individual power supply is a movable asset, which could save its owners money. Municipalities could get involved by checking consumers' payment history and collecting monthly repayments as part of ordinary utility bills.
Power consumers who want to avoid the destructive impact of this crisis will have to make their own plans. The price of solar panels and back-up batteries must no longer be compared to municipal power tariffs, but with the damage caused by frequent and prolonged power outages.
At the moment, international volatility is magnifying the government's shortcomings. Thus, citizens have no choice but to do what is needed to protect themselves against it, regardless of whether they think it is their responsibility or not.