While some South Africans are worried about bathing with cold water and eating cold food, others are faced with possible life and death situations if hospitals and clinics do not have back-up power when the countries power system fails.
In South Africa, you might not easily be able to buy face masks, the shelves of hand sanitisers in mass pharmacy outlets and supermarket chains might be bare, but online the key items seem to be a step counter or a smart watch and a generator to get you through stage 2 or 4 load shedding - or if you live in parts of Cape Town this week, what seems to be stage 10 with no hint of reconnection.
South Africa’s cheap and abundant coal resources made coal generated electricity an obvious choice for many years. Initially, power stations were owned by municipalities and large mining and industrial concerns. But as the costs of recapitalisation emerged, government was persuaded to take over responsibility for power.
Eskom is among the biggest power utilities in the world, famous for its ability to handle vast tonnages of low grade coal. Eskom accounts for over 90% of power generating capacity. Its power plants are mostly coal with one nuclear station and some pumped storage (water). Only a few minor power generators have remained outside Eskom’s fold.
All power generation is tied into Eskom’s national transmission grid that moves electricity from generation stations to demand areas. Transmission is a natural monopoly. If you want to use the transmission grid you need Eskom’s permission.