Has Eskom acknowledged that consumer renewables are going to force it out of its prevailing mindset of ‘buy power on our terms and at our prices’? I was pleasantly surprised at the SAIREC renewable energy conference earlier this year when listening to Barry MacColl (GM for Eskom research) at a session on energy storage, when he said, referring to the potential growth of solar PV and battery storage it “would be the end of the power company as we know it”. Adding “It’s a worry for us, to be totally honest with you, we do have these discussions about what if everyone said, well, that’s it, we’re off the grid.”
In 2011 at COP 17 hosted by South Africa in Durban, a flurry of activity installing solar water heaters into low-income homes took place to show to delegates attending the conference. Four years on and not only has the socio economic uplift low income solar water heating programme been dead for nearly 3 years, (targets missed by 500,000) but all incentives to encourage consumers to switch to solar from energy hungry electric geysers have also stopped. Indeed all other energy savings incentives such as energy efficient lighting, heat pumps, and other industrial scale saving programs have been in suspense or terminated.
Water saving measures has been largely ignored in South Africa. In much the same way as cheap electricity has lulled the public into a false sense of security, and consumer renewables in form of solar water heaters to replace electricity in heating water have been ignored, the current drought may force consumers both domestic and business to rethink water as a free or cheap resource.