Now we’re Cooking with Gas

“There is good news and bad news. The bad news is the sh*t is about to hit the fan, the good news is the fan will be off due to load shedding*”, this is more of less the content of a close to the bone spoof Eskom broadcast which did the rounds on social media in recent months.

Eskom is South Africa’s creaking electricity monopoly and load shedding is the term they use to describe planned and localised power cuts.  Load shedding is implemented (fairly frequently at the moment) because of an ongoing shortfall between the demand for electricity and the capacity of the grid to supply it.

How serious is the problem? It’s pretty serious. The grid has suffered mismanagement and poor decision making over the last few years, (meanwhile there have been reports of some rather flash cars parked in the company car park).

The grid infrastructure that currently exists is, rumoured to be, held together with hope and sticky tape. There is no quick fix solution and most likely these planned power outages will continue for the months and probably years ahead. I previously covered just a few of the day-to-day problems that arise during power cuts HERE.

Additionally there are more serious and far-reaching consequences including a huge negative impact on the on the economy, but I’m not going to wade into all of that just yet. On the upside, when the power is off, the temptations to browse the internet or glue your eyes to the television temporarily cease. Instead there is more time for reading, for board games, for homework (sorry kids) and play.

Even though many businesses are suffering, any selling generators, inverters, solar panels or similar must be seeing an upturn in sales.

On a personal level it forces the procrastinator in me to be more focussed and organised. I have to charge my phone, put the washing on, send the tricky email now-now. To rehash an old saying: Never put off until tomorrow what can be done before load shedding kicks in.

Necessity is the mother of invention, so the sh*t hitting the fan provides a great incentive for entrepreneurial souls to shine.  I read about a schoolgirl in the UAE who designed a solar bag so that she could charge her phone when she was out in the desert. Clever. I then found websites for The Solar Bag CompanyBirkSunSunny Bag and Voltaic Systems.  They all appear to sell a range of bags that will charge your smartphone.  Does anybody know if they are any good and whether these or similar products are likely to be available in South Africa any time now?  We have sunshine in generous abundance here and millions cell phones that need charging.  The potential market for things like solar bags must be huge.

“Now we’re cooking with gas” normally has positive connotations.  It’s urban slang for “now we’re really getting going and things are going well”.  However, during a power outage, cooking with actual gas is the ideal option.  This is bad news for those (like us) reliant on electric stoves!  Thus, it’s in my interests to explore alternatives for preparing or sourcing meals when the power is off.  Watch this space, my findings will be coming soon.

Top Tip for Coping with Load Shedding

If you’re NOT living in South Africa, you don’t need to read on, because it won’t make much sense to you. If you ARE living in South Africa and haven’t yet discovered Grid Watch you need to go to news24 right now and install it. You can add your location (home and/or work) and it will show the outage schedule for Stage 1, 2 or 3. Additionally alerts will pop up whenever load shedding is being implemented. Not only does this app alert you to power cuts, it even has a nifty little torch icon. Press it and you will have a little light in the darkness – that is assuming you’ve remembered to charge your phone…

  • If anybody knows the provenance of the spoof broadcast, please let me know.
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Residents of SA You need this app! I got a full 15 minute warning last night, giving me time to blitz some baked beans on toast for tea, set my phone charging and light some candles before we were plunged into darkness.

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