Off again – and that font?!?

The issue with our ailing power utility – so we were told – wasn’t the years and years of rampant corruption, but rather the guy who was in charge. He was in the process of stepping down when he gave that bombshell interview about all the corruption and was politely(?) asked to leave immediately.

So, now that he has gone, everything should be ok. Right?

Wrong.

Weirdly, it seems that he wasn’t the issue. So we have no idea what the problem could actually be*, but there clearly is a problem of some sort. Because I’m sitting here for another 10 hours without power today, because of the ongoing demand and supply problem. We want 31.3MW, they can only give us 24.7MW. And if you don’t cut the power to cover that shortfall, everything falls over and it’s a very bad thing.

Those figures come from this tweet from last night:

And I actually love the way that they’ve done their best to cushion the blow by using a whimsical font. Who do we think came up with that idea?

“Not looking great on the grid figures tonight. We’re dangerously short and we need to tell people.”
“OK. Send the twee… no… wait. Do you have a kind of handwritingy font we could use?”
“What?”
“You know. Something a bit fun and disarming.”
“But we’re the official state power utility. Shouldn’t we be using the official state fonts?”
“Well, yes. But let’s show our human side. Just something a bit playful and quirky to take their minds off the awful numbers.”
“Well, I mean, I have got this one…”
“Like, actually Oh Em Gee! It’s So frikkin perfect! Look at the devil-may-care lack of connection on the loops! Observe the mildly curved downstrokes! The capricious overshoot on the Es and Ms! Do it!”
“Er… right. The numbers are still bloody horrendous, though.”
“Who cares? It’s so pretty! Quick, just click SEND before the boss comes back!”

I imagine that’s pretty much how it went, anyway.

Sadly, using my scientific brain, I was able to see through the eccentric and unprofessional choice of typeface, and I’m actually pretty worried about just how bad the situation is. But hey, it’s so easy to get bogged down in bad news. I guess that we should take solace in the fact that they haven’t used Comic Sans yet, so maybe we’re still somewhere just above rock bottom.

* although there is still that years and years of rampant corruption thing, but… surely not?!

Could this be it?

And by “it”, I mean the first day (24 hour period, midnight to midnight) for us with no loadshedding this year?

It’s definitely a lot longer than that as well, given that we had a very loadsheddy end to 2022, but I don’t have the figures to hand.

Of course, there is actual loadshedding elsewhere, but we are unaffected – as yet. Last time they tried to do this, everything broke down halfway through the day and we ended up on Stage 4 with 10 minutes notice. So let’s not count chickens, but also, let’s hope that we have a whole 24 hours of uninterrupted electricity supply.

But why is this possible? Well, no-one seems very sure, but it’s “lower expected demand” [sic] and fewer broken generation units, apparently:

(If you’re reading from overseas, you’ll likely be looking at the above wondering WTF any of it actually means, but we’re well used to deciphering this sort of language now.)

And why fewer broken generation units? Well, no-one seems very sure. The installation of a new Minister of Electricity, the departure of the CEO of Eskom, and some minor party threatening violence on the streets of SA tomorrow are being touted as the reasons, but none of those could miraculously fix years and years of decay, corruption and lack of investment. So maybe it’s good fortune or – more likely – a lack of sabotage. But why a lack of sabotage?

Well, no-one seems very sure.

It’s all rather confusing, very welcome, and probably completely unsustainable.

More to come

Ugh. I does sometimes feel like this blog is just a means for me to moan. But taking a step back, and looking at the several (or more) years that I’ve been writing on here, I also feel that it’s reasonable for it to reflect my state of mind at any given time. Sometimes, that state of mind is influenced by personal stuff (no, the kitchen still isn’t finished and they’ve also managed to not connect the sink up correctly, so they’ve destroyed some cupboards as well), sometimes by life in general. Probably most often both, with some delicious interplay between the two.

But the last couple of months have been… bad.

Are things going to get any better? Well, hopefully, yes. But perhaps not just yet.

We have a few things to deal with before that:

It’s a lot.

The light at the end of the tunnel?
I want to believe it’s there, but I just can’t see it at the moment.

Stage 4 and up in Cape Town – what does it look like?

Much alarm, but no real surprise, as the message came through that we can expect Stage 6 (six) loadshedding this evening.

Loadshedding – or rolling blackouts – is the process by which the country cuts off power to different areas at different times because there isn’t enough electricity to go around. The alternative would be not cutting areas off and literally overloading the grid, leading to uncontrolled blackouts and general Armageddon. You can’t just switch the grid back on after an uncontrolled blackout. We could be down for days or weeks.
Oh, and each stage represents 1000MW that we’re short of what we require. So to be missing 6000MW is quite something.

It’s not a good scenario.

In Cape Town’s 23 loadshedding areas, each loadshedding period lasts for 2 hours, plus an additional half hour during which the power is restored. You might get one loadshedding block per area in a Stage 1 or 2 day, and up to three blocks per area in a Stage 3 or 4 day. But once you get beyond that, it gets a bit different.

So what does life in Cape Town beyond Stage 4 look like?

Yes, it’s complicated, but there are plenty of timetables readily available. If you have electricity to be able to access them, of course. It pays to be prepared.

And it pays to cut your electricity usage when you have it. If we were all to do that, we might be able to reduce demand. But even then, it’s all very much out of our hands.

Fugly situation.

Day 591 – Power station being robbed of R100m fuel oil each month fails to deliver much power SHOCK!

Or rather no shock, because no power, amirite?

I’ve been looking at some facts and figures online (when I can, thanks to this infernal, eternal, often diurnal loadshedding) and have made an amazing discovery.

Published a couple of days ago, this slide, presumably from a presentation about the horrific state of our dirty, broken national power grid:

…in which you might well note Tutuka Power Station stuck in bottom place (Kusile isn’t properly commissioned yet) with a somewhat ropey Energy Availability Factor of 34.34%, and this document, released on twitter yesterday evening:

…in which Eskom announces the arrest of several individuals for alleged theft of R100 million worth of fuel oil PER MONTH from [checks notes…] er… Tutuka Power Station.

I mean, amongst a plethora of other questions, “How the hell did no-one notice?” has to be right up there. Or is this merely a drop in the metaphorical Mpumalanga fuel oil ocean? How much fuel oil do you get (or not get, I guess) for R100m each month?

I’m no expert in these sort of things, but could there… could there possibly… be any sort of connection between these two pieces of information?

I guess we’ll probably never know.