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‘Powering off’ the Eskom Grid: Suggestions for Energy Self-sufficiency

‘Powering off’ the Eskom Grid: Suggestions for Energy Self-sufficiency

Load shedding; load reduction; power outages, reflect the ‘heart of darkness’ of a government that through systemic dysfunction and failure to govern, has plunged South Africa into a deep economic and social mess. On top of the coronavirus pandemic, the persistent power failure is exacerbating already dire unemployment in South Africa. The successive years of mismanagement, corruption and incompetence revealed at the Zondo Commission, has ‘junked’ our economy, hobbled our once functioning state owned enterprises, accelerated economic decline and now threatens the lives of dozens of patients at Gauteng hospitals due to power outage damage at water reservoir pumps. It’s impossible to quantify the exact costs of power failures on the economy – business failure; loss of manhours; breakdowns of appliances. However, with the SMME sector being most vulnerable to power failure economic distress, places the sustainability of our country at great risk. The SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in the first quarter of 2021 gives the official unemployment rate as 32,6% of which a significant segment is the youth. It’s not surprising therefore that a report by risk assessment agency, Eunomix Business and Economics Ltd (10 September 2020, in BusinessTech), predicted that South Africa will face significant economic decline and ultimately by 2030 rank the same as Bangladesh! With Eskom CEO, André de Ruyter, acknowledging persistent ‘load shedding’ for the foreseeable future,  South Africans have one of two choices; live with the inconvenience or ‘go it alone’ and invest in an alternative backup system. 

Below is an example of a tested solar model. The solar solution is purely for illustrative purposes and not to endorse any particular approach.  Each household’s needs and budget will be different and will require research for an appropriate  approach. At the outset solar is probably the most accessible form of alternative energy.  However, there are some basic requirements such as sufficient and unobstructed roof space, but ground mounting is also an option.  The first step is to complete an energy audit to determine daily average consumption and peaks (when most power is consumed). After an accurate consumption audit,  the second step will be to determine the size and number of solar panels, as well as the size of the inverter (to convert the direct current to alternate current that is ready for home use). The third step is to consider how long the system is required to run during and outside of load shedding hours and then to acquire the appropriate number of batteries (for example, two 3.5kWh batteries supply 1kW of power for six to seven hours). There are many inverter options available. Off-Grid systems are primarily used where there is no grid connection and hence do not require a grid connection. However, you need batteries and solar panels in your initial setup. Grid-Connected or Grid-Interactive inverters allow for a grid connection with batteries and/or solar panels. Batteries are required for any backup system with solar panels. These systems, if installed without solar panels, do not provide any savings as you are simply using the grid to charge your batteries and then using this stored electricity during load shedding. A third option is the more expensive hybrid inverters. This allows for more flexibility because a hybrid inverter can seamlessly blend electricity from multiple sources such as wind, solar, generator, batteries, and the national grid. Savings are however only achieved when adding solar panels. Hybrid and grid-connected inverters without batteries cannot operate during load shedding.

Although moving off the Eskom grid is enticing,  initial investment costs can be daunting. For illustrative purposes, an outlay of approximately R200 000 could include an 8kw hybrid inverter, 24 x 455w Solar panels, 4 x 3.5kWh lithium batteries, installation, and sundries to complete the installation. Savings, however, will include monthly electricity costs, potentially reduced appliance damage costs and capital appreciation on the residential/ commercial property. A real life case study using a similar system as above over a period of 236 days, generated just over 9 700 kWh equating to a saving of over R24 000 at an average rate of R2.50/kWh based on City of Cape Town tariffs. This could ensure that the outlay be repaid within a period of approximately 8 years. Batteries and inverters should last for 10 years with the inverter having a design life of over 15 years. The solar panels are also designed to last approximately 25 years while retaining 80% of their rated output.

However, with budgets stretched, affordability might be a hurdle.  Personal savings, if available, might be an option because reduced electricity cost savings represents a return of over 12% per year excluding any future tariff increases by the City or Eskom. Financing this through an access bond, where the interest rate is relatively lower at 8%, also makes financial sense. Solar and battery technologies are also becoming more affordable. There are many benefits to ‘powering off’ the Eskom grid.  Besides the medium to long-term cost savings,  the most important benefit is to delink from an erratic and carbon inefficient system.  Eskom with its coal burning power stations, is currently one of the biggest culprits for carbon emissions in the world! Therefore in the interim, consumers must try and minimise electricity consumption as much as possible. This should include replacing incandescent lights with low energy LED light, cooking on gas instead of an electric stove, replacing high consumption fridges and freezers with AAA-rated appliances, inverter air conditioners instead of non-inverter air conditioners, changing an electric geyser to run on solar evacuated tube, gas, or with a heat exchange. The solar alternative energy solution is shared as one of the options that consumers can explore to mitigate the impact of ‘load shedding’ or power failure on households.  More importantly, sharing the information is part of TSIBA Business School’s mission of presenting knowledge value in a practical way whilst striving towards social and planetary sustainability. 

Achmat Kazie, BA(SA), GTP(SA) and Rudi Kimmie (PhD) are from the TSIBA Business School. They write in their personal capacities.

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Glenfiddich unveils opulent new additions to the grand series

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GLENFIDDICH UNVEILS OPULENT NEW ADDITION TO THE GRAND SERIES

The world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky unveils exquisite 26 year old expression finished in French Cognac casks.

Glenfiddich, the World’s Most Awarded Single Malt Whisky, has unveiled Grande Couronne, the newest addition to Grand Series. The maverick whisky brand continues to challenge conventions with the unexpected marriage of two luxury worlds.

Grande Couronne is a 26 year old whisky matured in American and European oak casks at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland, before the crowning glory – an extended finish of up to two years in meticulously sourced French Cognac casks – providing a true taste of elegance.

The Glenfiddich Grand Series is a beautifully disruptive series of single malts that oozes opulence and is designed to elevate occasions and celebratory moments in a whole new way. Grande Couronne is the latest addition to the series, which includes Glenfiddich Grand Cru, aged for 23 years in American and European Oak casks and then finessed in French cuvée oak casks and Glenfiddich Gran Reserva, patiently mellowed for 21 years in bourbon casks before a final flourish in Caribbean rum casks.

Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, commented: “The Grand Series perfectly encapsulates Glenfiddich’s spirit of innovation and our ability to experiment with aged liquid and intriguing finishes. Grande Couronne is the latest to exemplify that approach. It is the only Glenfiddich single malt that has matured in American and European oak casks and finished in rare French Cognac casks. The length of the finish, two years, is highly unusual and adds extra layers of sweet toasted oak and velvety aromas of café crème, brown sugar and soft spice.”

The bottle and packaging are adorned with an ornamental gold filigree, whilst exquisite artwork reminiscent of great renaissance paintings are revealed inside the box. Glenfiddich Gran Reserva’s bottle and packaging has also received a stylish redesign, echoing the vibrancy and warmth of the liquid.

Claudia Falcone, Glenfiddich Global Brand Director comments, “Glenfiddich’s maverick spirit is very much alive and well in this new release. Grande Couronne adds a crowning glory to any occasion offers a true taste of opulence and brings together the unexpected marriage of two luxury worlds.”

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