Friday 19 October 2007

We need power cuts

Every day there are stories in the papers and on the radio and TV about our impending power shortage. By now we’ve all heard the warnings of the dire consequences of the problems with ESKOM in South Africa and the problems we’re going to face unless we reduce our consumption.

What we’re being asked to do isn’t that complicated. Turn lights off when we don’t need them. Turn off the TV when there’s nothing to watch. That one shouldn’t be too difficult. Seeing as there rarely seems to be anything to watch anyway that one should save a huge amount of power.

We also shouldn’t waste hot water which takes a huge amount of energy to heat. One specific plea is for us all to turn our geysers off in the evening when we get home from work and back on again when we go to bed. The critical time is in the evenings when we all start cooking, watching TV and consuming electricity like it’s going out of fashion.

The threat we’re apparently facing is that if we don’t reduce our evening consumption we’ll have power cuts. But I think that power cuts are exactly what consumers deserve and in fact need. I think they could be the best thing that could happen to us.

The main problem is that we are all hugely careless with electricity. I’m not excluding myself from this, I’m just as guilty as the next guy. We’ve all grown accustomed to seeing electricity as something that’s effectively free. We just turn a switch, press play on the DVD player, switch on the oven without every really seeing it as consuming something.

In part this is a sign of how amazing technology can be. If you consider what goes into delivering electricity to your house or office it’s a wonder that it’s so cheap. Even in a country like ours with a hugely distributed but tiny population we should be amazed that so many of us have electricity. I don’t think we notice it, it’s become almost invisible. Without thinking we leave lights on, the TV on in the background without us actually watching it, pool pumps pumping throughout the day and night. We consume carelessly.

Power cuts may actually do us some good. Maybe we’ll learn to appreciate our power supply?

Meanwhile so what if we do have power cuts? How much of a disaster is it? Well, obviously if you’re a hospital it’s pretty serious but then they all have generators for when this happens. What about you and me?

So you’ll have no lights. So light a candle or a paraffin lamp instead. They’re prettier for a start, they’re not that expensive and they can even be romantic.

You won’t be able to cook your dinner. So have a braai instead. The meat, beer and wine in your fridge are going to get warm anyway so why take them all outdoors and get cooking and drinking. Invite your loved one outdoors for a romantic, candle lit dinner.

Your electric heaters won’t work but who cares? The evenings are getting warmer so who needs them anyway. If you do get cold I’m sure you and your partner can find a way of generating a little heat can’t you?

Your TV won’t work. So live without it! Yes, you CAN do it, trust me it IS possible to survive without TV every so often. You could even, horror of horrors, have a conversation with your partner. Revolutionary I know but you’ll be surprised at what might happen!

So all in all power cuts aren’t that horrific. There are plenty of ways to pass the time during one and above all there’s one inescapable fact. You don’t need electricity to use a condom!

But can these power cuts be prevented? Can we as consumers do anything to stop them? Yes, of course we can. In fact we’re the only people that CAN stop them. BPC can’t just conjure more electricity out of a hat. Eskom aren’t suddenly going to switch off their local South African customers just to please us in a foreign country. The new power station at Morupule won’t be generating power for years. It’s all up to us.

So start saving electricity. Stop being so wasteful. Consume less and be a good neighbour. If we all understand that, as John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself” and start thinking about our community rather than just ourselves we might all benefit. Your neighbour consuming less power will help you just as you conserving resources will help him.

Finally, there is one other thing, a thing that should be of considerable interest to all consumers. Don’t forget that by consuming less electricity you’ll be saving money!

All in all I think the impending power crisis might actually do us some good. Like our recent drought which made us a little bit more water conscious this shortage of power might actually benefit us all.

This week’s stars!

  • Duncan at Game for being flexible as well as very helpful.
  • Thuso at the Total filling station at Game City for being friendly.

We still have Wimpy vouchers to give away. Our friends at Wimpy have donated lots of P50 vouchers for us to give away to our readers. All you have to do is nominate someone who you think delivers excellent service and YOU get a Wimpy voucher. They get celebrated here in Mmegi, we’ll write to their Managing Director praising them and they get to come to our next Consumer Watchdog Party to be celebrated by you-know-who.

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