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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Day 691: Let's Play Monopoly

http://businesstech.co.za/news/general/79247/help-me-sue-eskom/

A disgruntled South African is so fed up with Eskom, that he has started a crowd sourcing initiative to take the power utility to court.


Oliver Coull said he started Court Ally, a ‘crowd funding justice’ website, in order to collect enough funds to take Eskom to court and break up its monopoly.
Coull said that in 2008 already, Eskom knew it would face a power crisis. “Yet 8 years later we are sitting in a worse situation with load shedding scheduled for the foreseeable future.”
“If they have done nothing in the past 8 years, are we really going to believe them this time round?”
Having launched the site earlier this week, he hopes to raise R2 million.
Coull is calling for a change. “Eskom needs to be partially broken up to allow greener energy producers into the market or at the very least open the grid up so anyone can feed back into it.”
“We will then be able to choose the energy companies we use, from 100% renewable energy producers to Eskom style inefficient diesel guzzling.”
“With new plans for this with their crazy R1 trillion dodgy nuclear deal, 16% increase per year, rolling black outs, R140 billion losses to our economy predicted for 2015… It’s clear we need an alternative to Eskom,” Coull said.
He said that he aims to collect funds to take Eskom to court either to a) break-up their monopoly, b) allow private energy producers into the market c) Open up the grid so everyone can feed back into it. - BusinessTech

Apparently South Africa will be enduring load shedding (rolling blackouts) for the next couple of years as Eskom (the one and only power utility) gets its shit together. Hopefully. They did say that the power crisis would be resolved by 2013 in 2008 when load shedding was a daily reality. Obviously that didn't happen.

There are a few nicknames for Eskom that you hear around town these days... "Eishkom" (eish is a Zulu slang word that translates loosely to what you would say if you accidentally burnt yourself on a hot stove plate, or you see someone fall off a horse during a dressage test). "Ek'sdom" ("I'm dumb" in Afrikaans) "Bastards" and "Incompetent pricks" are a couple more you might hear. The general sentiment towards Eskom is definitely on the negative side of the scale.

Read this excerpt from Eskom's Wiki page:

Load shedding was reintroduced in early November 2014. The Majuba power plant lost it capacity to generate power after a collapse of one of its coal storage silos on 1 November 2014. The Majuba power plant delivered approximately 10% of the countries entire capacity and the collapse halted the delivery of coal to the plant.[16] A second Silo developed a major crack on 20 November causing the shut down of the plant again. This after temporary measure were instated to deliver coal to the plant.[17]
On 5 December Eskom started major stage three load shedding in South Africa after the shut down of two power plants on Thusday 4 November 2014 due to diesel shortages. It was also reported that the Palmiet and Drakenburg are also experiencing difficulties due to a depletion of water reserve to the Hydro plants. Stage three is the highest degree of load shedding.[18]
On Thursday 4 November, Eskom fell 4,000 megawatts (5,400,000 hp) short of the electricity countries demand of 28,000 megawatts (38,000,000 hp). The power utility has the ability to produce 45,583 megawatts (61,128,000 hp) but could only supply 24,000 megawatts (32,000,000 hp) due to “planned and unplanned” maintenance. One turbine at Eskom’s Duvha Power Station is still out of commission due to a "unexplained incident" in March 2014.[19]

What I find to be somewhat confusing, especially considering that the general statement of Eskom is that it cannot produce enough power for South Africa, is that Eskom is capable of generating over 45 000 meawatts. Compare this to South Africa's demand of 28 000 and you'll realise that it does not compute. The problems recently are that the power stations keep breaking (or in Eskom's words, they had to undergo "unplanned maintenance") - but that still means that Eskom is generating well below it's actual capacity. One of the theories I've heard is that Eskom did not maintain the power plants for a number of years after apartheid ended. Another is that the apartheid government provided electricity selectively. The real reason? I can only speculate.

Eskom is one of the biggest polluters in South Africa. It has been using it's emergency diesel fueled generators for months (or longer, who knows), allegedly costing over R1billion PER MONTH. It's no surprise that the price of electricity has more than tripled in less than a decade.

Unfortunately, few people have the capital to opt for green energy, and since Eskom has a monopoly on the power industry in SA, most people feel powerless.

A similar situation exists with the one and only land line telephony service provider in SA: Telkom (AKA Hellkom). Telkom has no competitors, so is one of the most expensive telephone service providers in the world to my knowledge. Apparently the restrictions around telephone service providers are loosening, so change is expected - but this is not the first time I have heard that.

This is what happens when it is the interests of a few that are given precedence over the interests of the many. There are plenty theories about how Eskom and Telkom are the way they are because of who has invested in them - but I will not go into that. Incompetence is born from a lack of social responsibility. The way that Eskom and Telkom operate show quite clearly exactly how lacking in social responsibility their principles and ethics are. This of course is simply a reflection of society as a whole - we readily accept institutions and people who are willing to abuse for their personal gain as being a part of life - it is not. We determine what will be a part of life - this is not imposed on us by some invisible hand.

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