Over two weeks ago, South Africa experienced a total blackout in most of its major cities. It certainly was quite frustrating for many that major cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban would have almost no electricity for a good part of the working day.
On the day, I busied myself with getting work done by finishing up a survey that needed my input on web materials and videos – which at the time I thought was the most important piece of work to complete as when you are working towards climate campaigns solutions, you’re always thinking of how best to reach your target audience. Not knowing, that as I finished I would be scrambling to find a source of electricity to complete my days work as the power suddenly went off.
This power cut was no surprise; in fact because of the heavy rains sweeping through the country over the last few weeks, the coal used by the parastatal Eskom at their coal fired power stations, made it impossible to be used, as it was wet causing a limited generation capacity and hence the start of more rolling power outages. Power outages in South Africa are not new territory, load shedding (the terminology now used) first began in January 2008. Once again, Eskom’s response has not been adequate. There was even a point when Andrew Etzinger, the Eskom spokesperson, sounded as if he was blaming us – ordinary citizens for using too much electricity. I agree that we need to stop wasting as a country but has he forgotten that 46% of electricity is being used by other companies.
As a country we knew this was going to happen, we knew it in 2007/2008 and we knew it before 2014. However, government has continued to invest in dirty energies rather than invest in a sustainable form of renewable energy. Eskom is building the 3rd and 4th largest coal-fired power stations in the world. The cost of Medupi power plant has gone well above the conservative estimation and can even be compared to the cost of concentrated solar storage. I can almost guarantee that the power from Medupi and Kusile (if it is ever finished) will go to industry and we will still have 30% of the population still not having access to the grid.
I always wonder why, after so much evidence that as a country we are relying on dirty ways of creating power? Renewable energy is the solution to a lot of these questions. If this fresh and new source of state owned energy is adopted country-wide, this would allow for less emissions from coal generation and a cleaner environment that we all can call home. This is not some kind of a long shot for South Africa, just look outside your window to see the amazing potential for solar and wind power.
More and more, the proof of climate change is upon us. The reality is that freak weather patterns such as violent storms, water scarcity and flooding are already ravaging our country. Just last night as I wound down for the night and turned on the television to watch the news, the first image that rushed across the screen was that of homes being flooded in the northern provinces. The country’s second largest dam, Vaal Dam is 105% full and sluices were opened in order to relieve the pressure on the wall, which means the water will flow into rivers and with continued rain could lead to flooding of other low lying areas.
As a South African citizen, African continent resident and 350.org coordinator, I feel this desire to ensure that I am doing all I can to challenge the powers that be, hoping for a better life for all.