The writer says she stocked up on several camping lights and solar lights due to load shedding. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko
Pretoria - It was Earth Hour this weekend, and I am sure many South Africans, like me, felt ambivalent about it.

After all, we just recently emerged from several days of Stage 4 load-shedding - four hours without power a day. Surely we have done more than enough for the planet, courtesy of Eskom?

I was reminded of July last year when large parts of Pretoria East were left without power for 10 days after the Wapadrand sub-station burnt down. It was a frustrating time, but we got wise. And after that, even Stage 4 load shedding was hardly a problem. I went off the grid as much as I could afford to. I got a gas geyser and a gas stove.

When there’s load shedding, I can make coffee and at least have a hot shower. Lighting is also no problem - I stocked up on several camping lights and solar lights.

And there we were again last month, in the dark. Earth Hour for days. But there was a bright side.

I rediscovered playing Monopoly and I loved hearing my neighbours’ laugh while they gathered with friends and family for an old-fashioned get-together and braai in the dark. It was also an interesting experience to walk the dogs in the pitch-black streets. The only annoying thing was the noisy, petrol-guzzling generators that were switched on.

The City of Tshwane has encouraged residents to switch to solar power rather than turn to generators, but green energy might take a while to gain traction.

Last week, the high court in Pretoria gave the green light for Eskom’s deals with 37 independent power producers (IPPs) to produce and sell alternative forms of energy, such as wind and solar power, to the utility.

The Coal Transporters Forum asked the court to overturn the deals. The CTF said the switch to renewable energy would cause job losses in the mining and transport industries.

When Energy Minister Jeff Radebe announced his decision to sign the agreements, he said the initiative would enable R56 billion in new investment in the economy over the next two to three years. He said the programme would contribute to job creation across the energy value chain and support the technical training of young people.

The court concluded that as the deals were signed and sealed, it could not interfere.

It was pointed out that the government’s policy on energy had been developed over almost two decades, after extensive public participation and stakeholder involvement.

It was recognised that South Africa was heavily dependent on coal as its primary source for power generation as its large coal reserves could be easily and cheaply exploited.

The government’s policy accepts that coal will remain the primary source of energy generation for the foreseeable future. But it also concedes that coal had a detrimental impact on the environment.

The most significant impact is the emission of greenhouse gases which make the Earth’s surface warmer and contribute to climate change.

I am all for renewable energy. Unfortunately, it won’t get Eskom out of its immediate crisis. And neither will Earth Hour. No matter how many of those we have, they will not save the planet from the destructive effects of climate change such as the terrible droughts or the deadly Cyclone Idai that affected our neighbouring countries so terribly.

But it’s a start, no matter how small.

Pretoria News