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Load shedding is over, but the power crisis remain

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While Eskom has announced a dramatic halt to its much-hated load shedding programme, organisations shouldn't put their plans for making backup and alternate power arrangements on hold entirely.

Andre Jordaan, APC product specialist at Tarsus Technologies believes that the South African power grid is far from stable and over the coming months businesses can expect the unscheduled blackouts and power interruptions that have plagued our country for the past two winters to become a fixture.
And in a way, the effects of unforeseen power interruptions stand to be far worse than scheduled load shedding.
"That's because at least with scheduled load shedding, there's a way to gracefully shut down servers and other critical infrastructure and safe-guard data from loss. With intermittent power issues and no idea when interruptions will take place, UPS solutions are going to become even more important," Jordaan says.
Realistically, the costs of electricity are also due to skyrocket over the coming year. "I therefore believe that looking longer term, all businesses should continue investigating alternative power generation methods."
Jordaan says that a number of different options exist. "Since each of them has its own benefits and drawbacks, they should be investigated in detail before a decision is made."
Looking at the choice that most businesses make, Jordaan says that diesel generators are a good option, but at this stage, they're not likely to be all that cost-effective.
"Generators use fossil fuels," he says, "and since the oil price is climbing at a rate of knots, having to refill fuel tanks with diesel is proving to be a more and more costly affair. If the diesel price continues to climb, it may render generators the least cost-effective option in the long term," he says.
Another popular option that Jordaan cites is solar charging.
Since this relies on the organisation having access to enough space to erect panels and a facility to house the batteries used to capture the energy generated by the panels, it is not a viable option for all companies.
"Those that have the space and capacity must also bear in mind that it takes a fair amount of investment to build such a power solution. It is therefore only viable for companies that want a long term solution," he adds.
A final solution is the use of fuel cell technologies.
As this technology relies only on the availability of oxygen and hydrogen to generate electricity, we might finally have a truly renewable source of energy, however, this type of energy generation is still in its infancy in Africa.
"This technology cannot come soon enough though," Jordaan continues, "as there is a bigger demand for batteries than ever before, and it could put huge pressure on lead resources, thereby rendering batteries a scarce commodity."
On the upside, Jordaan says there is room for innovation in the power market.
"South Africans have been known to develop some of the most innovative solutions to problems faced in this country, so there is hope that South Africa could be a pioneer in the power market in years to come," he concludes.