In 1882 Kimberly was not only the first African city to install and use electric street lights, but even beat the City of London to the widespread use of this technology by nine years.
Four years later gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand, fundamentally altering the focus and future of South African economic and technological development away from the Diamond City and towards the booming City of Gold.
The discovery of this precious resource meant that South Africa both required and could afford to invest in large-scale power generation and electrification projects. As demand for electricity has continued to soar across the globe, the power of centralised producers and suppliers, such as Eskom, has grown. Bereft of any real competition, these organisations have unfortunately become complacent, inept and inefficient.
Until recently our inaction may have been justified; there was very little we could do to change this power imbalance. But this has all changed, and today I would like to share with you two simple tips about how you can disrupt this monopoly.
Since 1971, average electricity usage has increased from 1 200kWh to 3 200kWh/capita/annum. Heating, cooling and lighting are the major contributors. The technologies required to reduce our consumption in these areas without compromising our lifestyle now exist, and they are affordable.
Change your lights to LEDs, insulate your loft and your geyser. If you’re planning to build a home, trade in conventional brick and mortar for an insulated and airtight panel design, use low-e glazing, and insulate your floors and ceilings.
With a more manageable load, each step of an off-grid journey will be more significant. In the past seven years, the return on investment for domestic PV has reduced from 12 years to as low as four years, with the starting price for a 1.5kWp system now being just R14 000. Complementary technologies, such as biogas, solar heating and rainwater harvesting will move you even closer to the point where you are no longer dependent on the grid.
Continuing to lean heavily on inefficient and ineffective parastatal utility monopolies will ensure their longevity and survival. The power to change this is well within our grasp. Let’s reach out and take it!
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