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The road to continuous electricity supply

Before we start with the real business of the day i.e. “the road to continuous electricity supply”, it is appropriate to provide some context to the achievements of Rural, by identifying the main drivers that have been at the root of Rural’s ongoing success in the distribution field:

Dr. Ian Mcrae, Allen Morgan, Nick Bailey, Eddie Muchna, Monty Senekal, Koos Lochner, Frik Schoeman, Edgar Louw and so the list goes on, of retired and sadly passed examples of extraordinary human beings, who served with distinction.

Decent, straightforward human beings, competent, passionate and the heart and soul of the old Eskom that Hendrik van der Bijl himself would have most probably been very proud of.

These names are not reflected on lightly. The culture of absolute dedication with which they delivered on their responsibilities towards “their” Eskom and South Africa, created a pride in myself as an engineer in training at the time, which has to this day fueled my passion for the delivery of electricity services to everyone in South Africa.

Electricity supply is not a business. Electricity supply and service delivery is not just a job. It is a calling. It is a passion. It is an unwritten contract of commitment and dedication between the supplier and the receiving community.

The drive is to switch on and keep the lights burning! Not money.

This outlook, attitude and dedication is what made Eskom historically a world leader and South Africa, an economic powerhouse in Africa.

So, what went wrong with South Africa’s soul – with South Africa’s electricity business ? The Minister of Electricity clearly summarized the real problem in South Africa quite beautifully recently… If one can believe the press, he offered a bonus to the current Eskom staff if they could manage to keep the lights on… Really!!

Had the names above, been offered the same incentive – they would have seen it as a huge insult to their integrity, commitment, competency and dedication. An insult to their person. Their own monetary interest did not drive their delivery. Passion, commitment and loyalty did. The fact that there was no outcry from the Eskom staff and unions to tell the honourable minister to shove it – clearly further illustrates the rot facing Eskom.

The lack of passion and commitment is what is going to make Eskom (and many other Government institutions) irrelevant in the not too distant future as a result of the culture that has been created within this once proud organization.

South Africa’s electricity future lies in the hands of individuals who love doing what they do.

South Africa’s future lies in the caring hands of the air hostess who genuinely serves with a smile and who yet again demonstrated the absolute greatness of our diverse South African nation and inspired me to pen this brief note on a redeye flight to Cape Town. The same as we saw during COVID when it was not the politicians or celebrities that kept South Africa going but the “average” South African.

This is the real 90%+ of South Africa.

This is why I, as a South African, am striving to do my bit for my fellow South Africans. Why? Because I can. Because I want to. Because I enjoy doing what I am doing. And, I am a loyal South African – craving to be proud of my Country of birth. I also know that I speak for our entire executive staff and 99.99% of every other staff member helping me to deliver. We all feel the same.


I never thought that I would be ashamed of the actions of my Country for a second time. But then again, we are South Africa. We can change course. We can get up and get going and do what is right. Just like we did to create democracy. We do not need anyone’s permission to contribute or make things better. We simply need to get going.

Now you know why we “got going”

The following short summary on the road travelled over the last 18 months in an attempt to play our small part in improving electricity services delivery.

Can we solve South Africa’s problems in one go? No.

Can we solve South Africa’s problem one town after the other? Yes.

December 2022

Our entire organization started focusing on solutions to limit the negative effects of loadshedding.


2023

January:

Engaged Eskom to discuss solutions to limit the negative effects of loadshedding.

February:

We launched our demonstration project where Rural did its own loadshedding in the town of Frankfort.

We introduced tailor made loadshedding programmes without compromising the national grid.

April:

We engaged in a legal challenge to allow the residents of Frankfort to continue receiving continuous electricity during the day when the solar farms provided more electricity than the amount required to be loadshed.

Unfortunately, this action was unsuccessful due to political interference.

June:

We extended our self-loadshedding program to Villiers and introduced curtailment to the large agri producers in Frankfort with the assistance of Eskom and VKB enabling continuous food production at reduced costs as generators run less.

July:

We upgraded the electricity networks in Tweeling and Villiers to allow for self loadshedding and curtailment options.

We introduced curtailment for large agri producers in Villiers yet again enabling continuous food production at reduced costs as generators run less.


August

We commenced with Tweeling self-loadshedding and the automation of all the substations scattered around towns to minimize costs pertaining to self loadshedding and reduce the stress on our dedicated employees, freeing them up to ensure our maintenance programmes continue (difficult to do if you have to do manual switching every 2 hours) .

September

We automated all the main substations (incomers and feeders) in Villiers, Tweeling and Frankfort.


October

We planned the expansion of the curtailment programme by constructing new infrastructure in Frankfort, Villiers and Tweeling.

November

We commissioned our first dispatchable power source in Frankfort, supplying power on demand to a large section of the Frankfort central business district. This demonstration project is now running until 15 December.



RFS is now ready to take all 4 Mafube towns being Frankfort, Villiers, Tweeling and Cornelia off loadshedding. All that is required is buy-in from the community in our Community Electricity Generation programme which details will be announced very soon. The infrastructure is ready. We simply need to expand on our dispatchable power sources already in operation.

If the community jumps in to assist, all 4 towns can be loadshedding free by March 2024. Having said this, RFS is more than able to follow a slower approach by taking zone for zone, off loadshedding. The reality however is that if the community actively participates, supports and contributes, loadshedding can be a thing of the past within 4 to 5 months in Mafube.

RFS has done the hard yards already.

Please therefore be aware that due to the distribution networks upgraded and new networks constructed, solar farms already in operation and the dispatchable power sources deployed, the RFS programme is no longer wishful thinking. Areas are already experiencing no loadshedding within the Mafube community.

We will keep you all posted on our progress.

For further information and participation, please make contact with:

Gugu Mokoena gugu.mokoena@ruralfreestate.co.za


Regards



Chris Bosch


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