The power of electricity

Having explained the increase of load shedding and the reason for it in “Poor rainfall impacts power supplies“, let’s see some of the effect it has on life and economy.

Day to day life for personal use of electricity has had smaller impact beside great annoyance. You have to change the time of running the washing machine (if you have one… and you have a schedule…). You have to charge your phone and computer when you can because you might not be able to do it again soon (and then… no emails, facebook or twitter…!). You have to make sure you have enough battery for the torch and/or enough candles. You wish that you have a gaz cooker and not an electrical stove… Or you use your wood/charcoal stove… You cannot keep food in the freezer anymore (if you have one) or for several days in the fridge (again… If you have one). Cold drinks are not so cold… But nothing so dramatic per say. Personal life can be adjusted to the lack of electricity (but easier said than done…).

But in some places, water supplies are brought via electrical pumps. So no electricity means no water. And we are back to filling up drums  and planning around it (again…those with no water or electricity at home don’t see the impact… They live with this burden everyday already…).

But the economical impacts for the nations is important. Even when known, it is difficult for some businesses to operate as outages have been long. Some of the schedules are for 8h, during business hours. Other time, cuts have been for 14-16h, for days in a raw. Many small businesses cannot operate at all (like barbers), or see their goods in jeopardy (such as butchers) which results in decreasing sales and loss of goods. Shoppers have also changed their shopping list as many food supplies cannot be kept safely in the fridges or freezers… Which in turn changes the shops sales and difficulties to adjust on fresh/cold food.

I have had to wait for 3 days to manufacture a piece for a project. It is not a big job, only need a couple of cuts and welding points. 10 minutes and it is done… But electricity was only on from 10-11 pm to 7 am… Hence the welder could not operate… In some places, welders do have a generator to be able to continue working. But the fuel cost is higher than electricity cost and therefore impact revenues. When schedules are known in advance, some productions lines have moved their working hours to follow the schedules. But this is only possible when you don’t deal with clients…and have a schedule…

And business loses do have a very negative impact on the global economy. But it goes even further.

In Zambia for example, the main country income is driven by copper mining. Those mines operate 24/7 in 8h shifts. The demand in electricity for mining is enormous: about 60% of the country production is used by mining. With load shedding, mines have been asked to reduce usage, one option was to have 1 shift operating at 50% only. Combined with other factors (global economy, cost of copper, exchange rate…), the electricity issue has still been a major factor in closing down some lines and laying-off thousands of workers.

Fuel usage is increasing with use of generators… Governments have kept the cost of fuel leveled, however, there are now talks of fuel shortage as the demand has drastically increased…

So at all levels, load shedding has an impact on everyone and have negative economical impact in countries which are already struggling in lifting their economy…

Loss of electricity brings us back to dark ages… Both literally and metaphorically speaking…

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