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DUDUZILE RAMELA: From politics to energy. So if you are a resident of Buccleuch, Kelvin, Paulshof, Marlboro, Sunninghill and Waterfall in Johannesburg, and you have a smart meter, you may want to pay particular attention, as Eskom has selected you to be part of their load limiting initiative.
Hilton Trollip is an energy analyst and Hilton, thank you so much for your time this afternoon. You are going to tell us exactly what this is. We believe it was piloted last year and due to the success in some areas, it is now being expanded. Let’s start with the term load limiting, what are we talking about?
HILTON TROLLIP: So what we are talking about, Dudu, is that you voluntarily agree that you won’t use more than a certain amount of electricity at a certain time. What I mean by that is if you switch your oven on, or if you switch your oven and your kettle on, you’re using lots of electricity at the same time. So what you will agree to do is to not do that, that you will only put low power devices onto the system or only one high-power device at a time, like a kettle or whatever.
So you could have the kettle on, but if you put the kettle and the toaster on, you will then get cut a while later. The reason they do this is, and just by the way, this is a progressive move and it’s done in many countries in many ways. So in South Africa, if you’re in Buccleuch or one of the well-healed suburbs or whatever, people got used to having as much electricity that they want at any time. So because I can pay for it, I can just have as much as I want.
What this does is it says to everybody, there is a shortage and it’s up to everybody, if we cooperate and we don’t all just take as much when we want and put all the air conditioners on and so on, then instead of cutting people completely, what we do is we just cut individual consumption. Does that make sense?
DUDUZILE RAMELA: Makes complete sense. Does that then mean that these individuals would’ve been identified to have high energy consumption?
HILTON TROLLIP: Possibly because the records on these smart meters does show what your consumption has been historically. But most importantly, and this is a constitutional issue, behind the meter measures, in other words, interfering with your supply in your home, it’s your right not to have that done. So this is voluntary.
So what Eskom says, and what I really like about this, instead of putting us into the false pretence that we haven’t got load shedding for a long time, what this does is it admits that we have a joint problem and also admits that collectively we can solve this problem. So for example, and now I’m just going to give an example that isn’t directly related to this, but if everybody in South Africa switched off their hot water geyser, we could drop two levels of load shedding. But to get everybody to do it is the problem because people say, if they can use their geyser, why shouldn’t I and so on.
So what Eskom is saying is similar to that, you won’t be able to put your geyser and the kettle on for this load limiting arrangement, voluntarily. They say, look, you can have your supply completely cut so that we can go down two levels of load shedding, or we can all voluntarily cut to a certain level. But with smart meters, what it allows them to do, it says, okay, for the next hour, we’ve got an agreement with you that you won’t use more than let’s just call it one kettle at a time or one thing at a time or you’ll only use your lights and your TV and so on, they’re all low. People will learn very quickly what high-power devices are in this. If you do that, then we won’t cut you at all.
You can continue to have your TV on, all your lights and so on, all the low power devices, we can all do that. With the smart meter, what it can also do is they can look at each person and they can say, hang on a bit, we all agree to do this, but we can see from your smart meter that you’ve switched on high-power devices and sorry, that’s now not acceptable in this group that is combining efforts, that is cooperating to decrease load shedding, so we’re going to just cut you.
So if you want to join those people who don’t voluntarily, when there’s a water shortage, we ask everybody to use less water but then we drive around the suburb and if you are watering your garden then you’re in trouble. It’s similar, there’s a shortage of power, everybody uses less power, we have less load shedding. But those people who choose not to cooperate when it’s voluntary and when they’ve agreed, Eskom can say, sorry, you’re not cooperating, bang, you get no power, you load shed for the load shedding period.
DUDUZILE RAMELA: So big brother is always watching. So Eskom is the one that actually controls the smart meters.
HILTON TROLLIP: So I don’t like the big brother thing. I like the idea, it’s in all societies, we all want to cooperate. If you’ve been a teacher or you’ve managed students or even run a company, you’ll know that most people want to make it work and you’re not being big brother if you go and find the one person who doesn’t cooperate, you are doing the kind of adult thing, you’re going and finding irresponsible children and you’re saying, guys, come on, we are all trying to help. That’s not big brother because there’s a kind of libertarian response to this, how dare they look at this and so on, and it’s not that. This is progressive, it’s cooperative.
DUDUZILE RAMELA: Okay. Hilton, just a final question because you’ll speak to energy analysts, and they’ll tell you that business is also a big contributor because in early January we enjoyed a reprieve because businesses were closed. So what is being done on that end to also ensure that big business plays its part?
HILTON TROLLIP: So there are a wide variety of things, Dudu. So just starting with really big businesses, they’ve been doing this all the time with Eskom, right from the start. Eskom has got a contract with every single big business. They have various levels of demand and Eskom, when they’d agree on their tariffs, they say to the big business, we would like to agree with you that if we’ve got a shortage, we will ask you to voluntarily curtail your consumption, and businesses do that. They’ve been doing it from the beginning.
Small businesses, it’s a lot more difficult and they’ll probably be pulled into the smart meter system, all the small ones. But all the really big energy users and the medium sized ones, they’ve been doing this all along anyway.
DUDUZILE RAMELA: Hilton, thank you so much. Hilton Trollip is an energy analyst.