Rural living breeds ‘sly sympathy’ for Eskom

Business Day Live 25 April 2013.

FOR the past three years, my wife and I have lived “off the grid” in a remote area of the Karoo, shunning Eskom and relying on 15 photovoltaic panels for electricity. This, you might think, would result in a sense of victory and freedom. In some ways, it has. But in others, the net result has been precisely the opposite: I’m slyly sympathetic to Eskom’s many woes.

For a start, I sense a fraternal bond over being forced to invest at precisely the wrong time. When we arrived in the Karoo, I bought a base set of photovoltaic panels for about R70,000. A year later, we decided to add to our power generation capacity because of intense customer demand — my wife couldn’t use her hair dryer in the mornings.

By this time, the manufacture of photovoltaic panels had taken off worldwide. Chinese producers were now kicking out panels by the million. Consequently, the price had halved and the power doubled. It was truly amazing. It was painful to imagine how much capital was wasted…
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