Cape Town has always had an attitude. Some years back, advertising icon Reg Lascaris ran an advertisement that had the tag line ‘What is Cape Town Without the C?’ (work it out). There was a bit of an outcry. This is the Town Where We Are Different.
I live in Cape Town and I am not sorry – Johannesburg traffic became just too much. But Cape Town and the Western Cape do have an attitude. The latest bit of this comes from the Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Mmusi Maimane. It is reported that the DA mayors will petition Energy Minister Jeff Radebe for the Western Cape to be permitted to procure electricity directly from independent power producers (IPPs). Maimane said it would allow councils run by his party to bypass State-owned utility Eskom and ensure stable electricity supply while the national utility suffers capacity constraints, which led to Stage 4 load-shedding recently.
Well, jolly good show. Now Maimane is a great politician, no doubt. As an electrical engineer, there is a bit of an air gap. Let’s assume that Machoy CC (MCC) gives up its life of toil and struggle and decides to generate power to sell to the Western Cape. MCC will borrow money and erect a wind turbine located . . . actually where? Certainly not in the Cape Town metro. Thus, it will be erected in an area which is part of the area where Eskom has a power supply licence. Thus, unless somebody connects the turbine by a separate power line, the output of the wind turbine will feed into the Eskom system, where the kilowatt hours generated will mix with those unspeakable kilowatt hours generated by coal-fired power stations or even, heavens spare us, nuclear power.
Now, according to a new electrical principle (hereafter known as the New Maimane Method), when these good, healthy, all-green IPP kilowatt hours are generated and fed into the Eskom system, they will know to keep south of the Hottentots Holland mountains for consumption by the good citizens of the Western Cape. This is all because the Western Cape, which now pays Eskom, which pays the IPPs, will no longer pay Eskom but will pay the IPPs direct.
Naturally, with regard to load- shedding, the Western Cape government will arrange a new load-shedding timetable that will cater for times when the IPPs are not generating (aka night time or on calm days) and then allow Eskom to load-shed on those days but not on days when the IPPs are generating. If IPPs generate at half-full load, Eskom can only load-shed for half the time. Or pro rata thereof.
Now, it does happen that there is a process known as wheeling, whereby an IPP could generate into the Eskom system and the Western Cape could take out what it generates from the Eskom system and, in that way, those in the Western Cape convince themselves that they are buying directly from the IPP. But Eskom charges a wheeling fee for this and anyway will not stop load-shedding because of some complex power payment agreement.
First prize in all this is for the DA (and for that matter all political parties) to stop making electrical pronouncements about which they know nothing. The fact that government and Eskom created the load-shedding scenario should be enough political capital for any of the opposition parties.
But it would be mean of me not to give out some good advice. So, here is a good piece of advice for the DA: it so happens that the candles you can buy in the shop come in different colours. There are white- and yellow- and blue-coloured candles. For any reason, the blue candles burn longer than the others (fact, I am not kidding). So, all the DA has to do is hand out blue candles in a pack that says that they last longer and leave the consumers to make whatever connection they want.