Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Ahh, the land of beauty, the land of leadership, the land of blackouts. Yep, I said it: blackouts. I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t overtalk about it. I’ll just say that for some reason our blackouts have now become world news. Actually, I think the reason is that it is more pronounced now? Well, at UCT, we have scheduled slots of when it will happen, from 10 – 12:30 and from 6 to 8:30. . . . .each day. But it doesn’t have to happen then. That’s just when it could happen. They call these planned outages “load shedding.” But before it got really bad a few weeks ago, the planned outages seemed rarely planned. We were always surprised by it.

Now, the only difference is that places across the country have assigned times, and they never do an entire city at once, just sections of the city (neighborhoods). It’s ironic that the very economy that is booming beyond predictions is now being reigned in by the lack of power to keep up with the economy.

Imagine it. Every time there is a blackout many businesses close, especially not knowing the duration of blackout. Some places are better suited to handle them. Grocery stores have UPS’s (uninterruptible power supplies). That just means they have some type of battery-operated power unit that can keep supplying power for maybe an hour or so after the main power cuts off. This allows cashiers to finish ringing people up in the dark. But they don’t stay on for that long. Imagine a bakery (really is happening here) that must spend hours in the morning preparing all its good. It can no longer do that because of load shedding messing up its morning routine and again ruining its noontime baking for the rest of the day. One bakery said it could only really do business at night when its had power to really bake for a good long amount of time.

In my life, I experience it as businesses (post office, grocery store), at home, and at work. Work is hard because I do computational stuff. So anytime the power goes out, you have to start the calculation. Say it takes 2 days, through a computer program you wrote, to calculate the best path for Santa to take through every city on the continent of Africa so as to minimize the time it takes. Well, when the power goes out, the two-day calculation waits until you return to the computer and restart it before it starts again.

It’s strange. We, South Africa, want a 15% power reserve. Right now, we’re about 5%. So it’s not that we can’t give power to the entire country for a little while. It just means that if we do, we’ll use up our reserve and really have no power reserve when the power goes out.

The problem continues though. Remember that South Africa actually sells power to other neighboring countries. Zimbabwe and Mozambique are examples. Now, if you thought the Zim blackouts were bad, think about how bad Zim blackouts are now since we are only supplying say about 20% of what we used to provide to Zim. Do you begin to see the problem? So businesses cut back on workers, businesses make less, etc.

But as always there are good things that can come from bad things. Hopefully people are becoming more conscious and aware of the power they use and conserve it more and more efficiently. More importantly, maybe this will spawn alternative sources of energy like solar, wind, geothermal, etc. So we’ll see what happens. One note, the articles may something like it was 1998 or so that forecasters realized we do not have the power to match the boom in the economy (and population). But it is originally due to earlier forecasting. 1998 and 1999 were years that people began to realize the earlier forecasts were wrong.



We have an adult chain store (or an adult store chain). At first I thought I was seeing things, but you see the same name all over town in all sorts of neighborhoods—well on busy streets (but never inside a mall). The windows are always tinted so you cannot see through.

No comments: