Energy & Power Systems

Earth Hour: 31 March 2012, 20:30 ā€“ 21:30

Published: 30 Mar 2012

Why the thinking behind turning off a single light is important

By Frost & Sullivan's Energy and Power Systems Industry Analysts, Johan Muller and Megan van den Berg

Earth Hour 2011 witnessed 135 countries, and more than 5,200 cities across the globe, switching off their lights for an hour to send a powerful message for action on climate change, according to the official Earth Hour website.  From its "small" beginnings in Sydney, Australia in 2007, the last Saturday of March each year has become a scheduled event on the global calendar, labelled "Earth Hour".  Although Earth Hour has garnered (in some instances) a type of emotive and fashionable herd mentality response from people and cities, the real issue is: what is the raison dā€™être behind Earth Hour and how can it impact us as South Africans?

Earth Hour is an initiative with the simple idea of raising awareness as to the effects of uncontrolled energy use. These effects include global warming, loss of energy security and in general, a lackluster mindset towards energy consumption.

Each country's energy mix and its associated set of energy issues is unique. South Africa, a hybrid between a purely developing and developed nation, has a multitude of energy supply issues. Earth Hour has the capacity to grow awareness amongst South Africans as to new paradigms that need to be adopted concerning electricity usage, in order to help strike a balance between energy supply and energy demand.  South Africa's energy demand is highly likely to outstrip the energy supply this winter (2012), with a potential deficit of 3,000MW during peak hours. Couple this with Eskom's recent breach of the electricity margin (global best practice is a 15.0 % margin, with Eskom operating at a margin of roughly 11.6% since 2009) and its use of diesel-fired gas turbines to keep the lights on, and you have an unsustainable system with massive cost implications which are reflected in the tariffs we pay as consumers.

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