Is going off the Grid Feasible?

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Most households have experienced the inconvenience of load shedding or no water or both. This led to people preparing on some scale, particularly in response to load shedding. Whether it was torches, batteries and candles or installing gas appliances or hybrid appliances or installing generators; people reacted to minimise the inconvenience of being without power. Being without water, just meant looking into rainwater harvesting tanks, or boreholes or greywater systems. In the current water shortage, these are not bad ideas. In fact, it’s just common sense. Some households have adopted all of these in a bid to save money and be more environmentally conscious. But is it off-the-grid? The below definition is supplied:

The term off-the-grid (OTG) can refer to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities. Off-the-grid homes are autonomous; they do not rely on municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services. A true off-grid house is able to operate completely independently of all traditional public utility services.

So how do these homes generate their power and get their water?

Electrical power: Electrical power can be generated on-site with renewable energy sources such as solar (particularly with photovoltaics), wind, micro hydro, geothermal; with a generator or Micro combined heat and power with adequate fuel reserves. Such a system is called a stand-alone power system.

Water: On-site water sources can include a well, stream, or lake. Depending on the water source, this may include pumps and/or filtration. Rainwater can also be harvested.

In reading up about off-the-grid homes, it became apparent that there is very much a cost consideration. Those that have gone full “off-the-grid” almost seem to treat it like a challenge.

How far can they remove themselves from the everyday use of public utilities? Obviously, there’s the cost of setting up which ever system you’ve chosen. Then it involves how long until you recoup your costs of the equipment and installation. If you make your money back, and then continue to function without having to fork out for power and water; then you’re golden. But I wondered about the expertise involved. I, myself, have very little knowledge about battery lifespans and generators and ensuring that I don’t blow something up; while connecting all the bits and bobs that are required to power my home. So is it a case of just hiring the correct professional to assess and set you up, while you learn to read battery levels and be aware where your hot water is currently coming from?

Is that it?

Just becoming conscious of what you require everyday for your home, and where it is coming from? Has the convenience of public infrastructure removed us from our individual impact on said infrastructure and the environment? Is that why we get so upset when Eskom turns off the lights? Because now we actually have to consider how dependent we are? But this isn’t true for all. This is very much centered on the urban and suburban communities. We have electricity and water. And we have options should these be temporarily turned off. Are all those shacks out in the stix considered off-the-grid? Where women walk kilometers to bring back water? The communities that use the car batteries that you see being pushed in wheel barrows? Where paraffin and Lion matches, are staples. Are these homes that are not connected to electricity or running water or sewer systems, considered environmentally conscientious and green? No. These homes and people that are doing without. Never mind no access to basic services, the fact that wood and coal are burnt for cooking and warmth doesn’t help the environment or people’s health. Lack of sanitation has a detrimental impact on public health. The Government has a responsibility to get everybody onto the grid, but at the same time is encouraging innovation and environmental thinking to allow people to get off-the-grid.

The National Infrastructure Plan was adopted in 2012 in a bid to get basic services to those communities that are without. It’s aim is to get electricity to the people, and water and sanitation. To improve lives. To ensure safety and healthy living conditions. How does this weigh up with the drive to be more green and environmentally conscious? More connections to the existing infrastructure, weaken it. (Eskom, I’m looking at you). We’ve seen it. The new RDP houses have been built and they all have solar panels and solar water heaters. A bid to meet all requirements halfway. But we’ve also read the articles where they haven’t been installed correctly and are woefully facing the wrong direction. North, the solar panels are apparently supposed to face north. So once again, it’s a balancing act.

Existing infrastructure has to be maintained, it then has to be increased to increase coverage and capacity. But this has a greater impact on resources and the environment; which is so not on in this day and age. So what do you do? Any damn thing you can. If you just want to not be paying huge electricity and water bills, then pay attention to how you are using these services. Because, lets be honest, money is a huge consideration and motivator. Whether you leave buckets out in the rain or install full on rainwater harvesting tanks; it all adds up. Solar panels, solar water heaters, restricting when your geyser is on and energy saver bulbs (which pretty much are your only option now) are all good habits and options to take on.

Off-the-grid definitely involves research and commitment and money. In some cases, it is very much a necessity and in others it does seem a bit of a luxury.

 

 

 

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Off-the-grid

http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Eskom/Living-off-the-grid-How-you-can-live-without-Eskom-20150621

http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/western-cape/going-off-the-grid—cape-town-style-1925969

http://www.elliesrenewable.co.za/rural_offthegrid.php

https://lottostar.co.za/blog/living-off-the-grid-not-that-difficult/

http://www.gov.za/issues/national-infrastructure-plan

http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/2d0f2f0049f65b6aa0c3eba53d9712f0/Rural-infrastructure-development:-the-solution-for-urbanization

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About Claire Donaldson

I started working at Leads 2 Business in February 2005, and have served as Head of Department of Daily Tenders from 2007 until the present. I oversee both the Daily Tenders South Africa and Africa Departments.

How does Load shedding impact your Business?

How does Load shedding impact your Business?

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Load shedding impact your Business?

 

Load shedding, a word we have come to know all too well in SA. So familiar in fact that we have a regular Power Alert Advert that runs daily from 5pm. Load shedding is even used in advertising from the Santam “One-of-a-kind” ad to the SPAR “Better Together” ad which try to highlight the ‘positives’ of Load shedding.

In many ways we have learned to live with the fact that Load shedding is a part of our daily lives even if we haven’t had any recently. You may be celebrating this relief but Load shedding is far from over. Eskom has said it is still monitoring the situation and will implement Load shedding if necessary. Our power grid is fragile and constantly at risk and this will only be alleviated once all pre-existing plants have undergone comprehensive maintenance and new plants have been completed. The future of our energy supply is uncertain and alternative energy although necessary is not an option for immediate relief.

It’s one thing living with Load shedding on a personal level when we can light candles, turn on the gas and order takeout but for a business Load shedding can have serious impacts especially for smaller businesses.

Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank, said: “While big companies have the infrastructure, client bases and capital to cope, many small businesses, which have the potential to be active players in the South African economy, do not have the financial muscle and resources to overcome these challenges.”

According to Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, the impact of even short periods without power was greater on SMEs than it would be on larger companies that likely have generators and other fall-back options and due to this there has been a dramatic shift in what SMEs consider to be the biggest external threats to their businesses.

“With power failures cited by 71% of respondents, the issue rates at almost exactly double the importance of crime, which came in a distant second, at 36%. This category is obviously driven to a large extent by those concerns that are highest in the public mind – SMEs have in the past attributed their sleepless nights to crime, the high cost of fuel, or even interest rates. These results came even when power failures were featured in the survey during the first load shedding several years ago, but load shedding still came well below crime at the time,” he says.

Productivity is vital for any business and Load shedding hits productivity hard which impacts profit. Load shedding is estimated to cost our economy between 8 to 10 billion rand a month understandably as Eskom currently provides 95% of our power.

 

Here are the Top Impacts Load shedding has on Business:

Loss of Production

Stock spoiling

Damage to electronics & machinery

Theft and burglary

Lighting

Battery life

Loss of Profit

 

On the positive side there are ways to minimise the impact of Load shedding:

Keep up to date on the Load shedding schedules

Solar Power/Alternative energy solutions

Generators/Gas

Surge protection

Back up your data

Back-up batteries/UPS

 

The fact is, there is no way to avoid Load shedding but by thinking smart, creatively and calmly could give your business the power to minimise the impact of Load shedding.

 

How does Load shedding impact your Business? Do you have tips to share? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources/Further Reading:

http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Poor-load-shedding-plans-affect-businesses-20150128

https://www.enca.com/money/load-shedding-biggest-threat-small-businesses-survey

http://www.rdm.co.za/business/2015/02/11/how-load-shedding-hurts-the-economy

http://www.poweralert.co.za/poweralert5/how-does-it-work.php

https://www.santam.co.za/blog/santam-news/our-latest-tv-ad-one-of-a-kind-insurance-for-a-one-of-a-kind-country

http://www.gadget.co.za/sme-survey-shedding/

http://paycorp.co.za/is-load-shedding-killing-your-business-2/

http://www.nolands.co.za/index.php/auditing-news-and-information/business-news/item/341-load-shedding-your-business

http://adslive.com/why-load-shedding-is-bad-for-business/

http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/2015/07/30/what-basic-things-can-you-do-to-limit-load-sheddings-effects-on-your-business

 

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About Sasha Anderson

I enjoy making new professional acquaintances and corresponding with existing clients. Reach out if you want to talk, L2B, social media, construction, technology, shoes, dachshunds, popular culture or travel.

Are there dark times ahead for Eskom?

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Are there dark times ahead for Eskom?

You are either nodding in agreement or shaking your head, depending on how you perceive the current situation.

 

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Eskom is a state owned (SOE) company which provides virtually all of South Africa’s electricity and the load shedding crisis was felt deeply by all South Africans. Business and home owners were affected by random blackouts and limited access to systems. At first, we laughed and joked about the ambience, the candles and the romantic dinners, but then after a few months people started to lose their sense of humour and it became quite annoying to say the least. Rosters were stuck up on fridges, meals prepared before the time, washing planned for certain days etc. We prepared as best we could. But why should we have to? We are paying for this right! So if we are paying for electricity, then why do we not have electricity?

 

Eskom

 

Recently I read that the South African government had already been warned back in 1998 that the country was running out of electricity!! Despite these warnings, they decided not to invest in any new power stations. If they had listened, South Africa could have had a new power station up and running by 2006 and load shedding could have been prevented. But in 2007 as predicted, South Africa ran out of electricity, 8 years later the crisis has deepened.

South Africa’s infrastructure including our power plants are operating well beyond their lifespan and due to an increase in demand often break down and force Eskom to perform unplanned maintenance. As a result they have relied on diesel generators to make up for the shortfall when power plants are in for maintenance – At a huge expense!
Eskom has set up its own maintenance plan to ensure long term plant health and seem to be progressing well as the maintenance has resulted in a reduction in the number of breakdowns over the past 7 months which in turn means we haven’t had load shedding.

In their plans they have prepared for the higher demand in the winter months and are building new power plants to help shore up power reserves. Eskom expect to spend billions / trillions over the next 5 years to build these power stations….spend whose billions exactly?
Quote – “To meet its targeted nuclear generation capacity, SA’s Government have said they plan to build six new nuclear power plants by 2030 at a cost estimated between R400 Billion and R1 Trillion.”

Just this week, I read an article that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) announced that electricity prices will be increasing by 9.4 percent from April. So that’s how they are paying for their mistake! In other bad news it was said that this increase could have terrible consequences for businesses such as closing down and retrenchment. Jobs are already in the firing line and the tariff increase could be used as the excuse to start retrenching. The Chamber of Mines has already warned that if Eskom’s application is approved, over 40 000 jobs could be lost. Apparently the 9.4 percent hike is just the first of many, as Eskom’s Khulu Phasiwe said prices will go up again. Already I can just see my news feed filling up with statuses such as #EskomFeesMustFall… But there may be a silver lining to the increase – the risk of load-shedding will be less, but at what cost?
The maintenance schedule is under Eskom’s own control and it only has itself to blame for the poor maintenance practices that we have had to suffer and pay for. Eskom has plans in place to ensure maintenance continues to stick to schedule and continues uninterrupted, well, so they say.
Being the optimist I am, I do have some good news as I prefer to see the good in everything, even Eskom. The good news is that as of April 2016, it has been approximately 207 days since the last load shedding, whoo hoo!! Plus Eskom has reassured us that this is the one count that will continue to rise, oh, and as it seems also the tariff hike…but anyway…Eskom say they “do not expect” load shedding in the future as the company has stabilised.

I have a dream…that one day we will have to explain in depth what the dreaded “Load Shedding” was when speaking to our grandchildren.In the same way that we would explain call boxes, polophonic ringtones, tape players and typewriters. But again, I say a dream.

 

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Many people still fear that SA is on the verge of disaster due to the most recent events such as firing of the finance minister, JZ’s admissions about Nkandla and the demonstrations at various university campuses where various items were burnt or destroyed. There are also concerns about a recession. But are they correct?
Keeping Eskom afloat is only part of the solution. Identifying where they went wrong and learning from their mistakes is another big part of the solution. Investigating viable alternatives is another part. One obvious lesson is that they should stop building large plants. Look at Medupi, it is already way more expensive than planned and even though its not operational yet, it is contributing to the rising cost of electricity and worsening our country’s problems. If they had decided to build a smaller plant, it may have been operational by now.

Mr James-Brent Styan, a journalist, has been writing about Eskom since 2008. He was there from the first load shedding and is still writing and tweeting about Eskom today. For those interested to read about Eskom’s journey, their ups and downs along with future predictions, look up the book “Blackout: The Eskom Crisis”.

 

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Maybe we could also look at having different suppliers besides just Eskom, have a choice in who we prefer to supply our electricity. In the UK they have “The Big Six Energy Suppliers” namely British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power, and SSE. They have an option to decide who they think would be best suited to them. This might not be such a bad idea. There are also options such as going off the grid etc that one could look into.
The bottom line is, that if the Eskom ship sinks, we all sink. There is no doubt that Eskom must be fixed, but we mustn’t hold our breath that this will happen any time soon. Eskom does seem to have a plan of some sort and have had a wake up call and are taking drastic steps to ensure this does not happen again, but we have not been given a time frame and most of us don’t trust that Eskom will do as they say.

So I don’t have a clear answer as to whether we will or won’t have to deal with load shedding again, or if there will be a light at the end of this tunnel. All we can do is shed some light on the current situation, it’s then up to you to decide.

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About Michelle Hosford

I work full time, study part time and now am the proud owner of the cutest puppy. Sleep...? What is that?