usage of Power 'is still too high'

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

If shopping malls are without power again during this year's pre-Christmas scrum and mines suffer another disastrous January, it's all your fault for leaving the kitchen light on.

Calls for South Africans to cut their electricity consumption by 10percent have resulted in a paltry 1,5percent reduction, Department of Public Enterprises director general Portia Molefe said at the launch of government's "Summer Savings Campaign" yesterday.

This means that there was no assurance the blackouts which started around this time last year would not occur again.

Deputy president Baleka Mbete said: "The reason this task has to be intensified even more at this juncture is because Eskom has to carry out maintenance in January. Summer is the only time that maintenance is possible, because in cold weather we cannot take plants out of production in order to service them. Starting in January, then, we have to work together to save electricity."

Mbete was speaking at a breakfast ceremony attended by the who's who of local mining and heavy industry. Business Unity South Africa president Brian Molefe handed her a pledge from his organisation's members that they will undertake a number of power saving measures.

These included performing "a basic energy audit for each of the buildings that we occupy to identify quick hits to improve energy efficiency".

Mbete said: "We have started with our own buildings. We have refitted 4000 buildings at a saving of R56million a year in electricity costs. We will continue until every government facility is electricity-efficient."

She said government was exploring tax incentives to encourage energy-efficiency, but that it was too early to give details.

Some households may view government's decision to allow the dominant player, Eskom, to be gatekeeper and referee, thereby putting 5000 MW of co-generation projects on hold indefinitely, as a bigger power drain than a few lights left on. But Mbete urged all South Africans to "make every watt count".

"We need everyone to contribute and ask that everyone do whatever they can to save electricity. Taken together, every little bit adds up to a lot," she said.