22 January 2008

Dealing with the electricity crisis "proactively"

Politicians really need to be more careful what they say.

Gwede Mantashe, the secretary-general of the ANC is reported as saying that we need to deal with the electricity crisis "proactively". It is far too late for that. It should have been dealt with proactively 10 years ago. Any action taken now is simply reactive.

The Times - Article
South Africa’s electricity crisis was debated at length at the African National Congress’s three-day lekgotla which closed in Midrand on Sunday, said the party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

The ANC would be looking into a number of interventions, he said.

'Rather than being in a state of panic [we should] deal with the issue proactively because it is actually positive that the country is growing to the extent that we actually exhaust the energy capacity,' he said.

Instead of viewing the problem as an energy crisis, it should be seen as an indication that more efficient energy consumption was needed.

To be proactive means to anticipate, and the crisis we face now is the result of a failure to anticipate.

For more than 10 years Eskom has channelled its infrastructure development into expanding the distribution network. That in itself should have led planners to anticipate increased demand by planning to build new power stations or at least bring mothballed ones back on line. Johannesburg City Council used to sell power to Eskom from its Kelvin power station.

Whether the problem was caused by the failure of Eskom to plan, or by political pressure from the government (as Cosatu claims), the fact remains that the problem is already here and it is much too late to be proactive about it, and the use of weasel words by politicians won't solve the problem.

The only way we can deal with the crisis at this late stage is reactively, not proactively.

But there are different ways of dealing with problems reactively too.

One of the dangers of reacting to problems after they have occurred is that it is easier to look for a scapegoat than a solution.

An extreme example of that is the reaction of the commuters who set fire to trains, and now face a non-existent train service because the trains are ashes.

Such reactions are counter-productive.

But the same attitude is apparent in many comments in blogs on the topic, where some have demanded that Eskom planners be flogged and similar things.

Some have suggested that Eskom be sued for losses suffered as a result of the power cuts, and that would be about as effective in solving the problem as burning trains. It would mean that instead of spending money on increasing generating capacity, Eskom would be paying lawyers to defend lawsuits. And the people who would pay for that would be consumers who would have to pay higher prices.

Burning trains and suing Eskom show the futility of looking for a scapegoat rather than a solution.


Anonymous said...

Two things,

Eskom is destroying businesses, Read my article on Mpumalanganet.co.za about people losing their livelihoods for the price of a generator.

Anonymous said...

oh and the second, Add your blog to Hug a SA blog


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