Alderman Leon Van Wyk, Executive Mayor of George Municipality
I recently was privileged to visit Denmark as a member of a Danish-funded renewable energy, local government and coalition government study tour.
This tour provided insights into the Danish planning, determination and ability to execute projects that will be to the benefit of citizens. In one city they are undertaking groundbreaking work by incorporating renewable energy to heat water pipes that circulate through buildings to provide internal heating. The port of Esbjerg is being re-purposed from an oil and gas industry harbour into the staging post for wind-turbine and solar PV energy equipment including the off-shore energy production fields in the North Sea. Energy lessons from the Danes are efficiency and flexibility and the management of energy demand as they transform to renewable energy.
I returned to George where we continue to face debilitating loadshedding thanks to the bad choices that our national government made. In addition, they have now run out of money.
This is the stark difference between the careful planning by the Danes and policy indecision in our country. As a result, our citizens endure rising prices with low prospects of employment. In the Western Cape there is active pursuit of driving service delivery and improvements to infrastructure to ensure sustainable economic activity. George has followed this policy approach and we are beginning to reap the benefits through investment into residential and industrial property development.
The electricity price increase that has been passed on to municipalities and consumers has no doubt affected the cash flows of all our customers making circumstances more difficult. Internally within the municipality, there is ongoing awareness around this burden and the increasingly difficult task of constant care and maintenance of electrical infrastructure that was built to operate 24/7. The management of diesel supplies for the various generators operating our water and waste-water treatment plants have become a logistical nightmare. With the constant uncertainty of which stages of loadshedding will be applicable in the days ahead, this impacts on planning diesel deliveries. At times, rationing of diesel for the vehicle fleet takes place to ensure that critical plant can operate.
At one of our plants where a generator had been installed, I was informed of the practical difficulty of manoeuvring a diesel tanker to fill the tank.
A further challenge is restoring electricity after particularly the 16h00-18h00 or 4h loadsheds when users wish to turn on all their appliances at once. Even though we have already installed advanced telemetry at certain key sub-stations, the senior official who restores the power has to ensure that George remains within its maximum capacity. The Danes advise that as part of introducing renewables, consumers will need to shift their loads, thereby reducing the demand on the system.