Energy Diet

Shedding Light on the Energy Bills

My name is Gerald, Mariëtte is my loving wife and Jayme is our precious little angel (daughter), who is quickly approaching 20 months of age. Rounding out the family are our two dogs, Maya (English bulldog) and Chino (Boston terrier).

I’m the supply chain manager at a company providing hygiene, deep clean & pest control services as well as cleaning equipment and consumables to about 6,500 customers countrywide. I travel about 60 kilometers (37 miles) daily to work and back, while Mariëtte is a self-employed graphic designer and stay-at-home mom.

Alberton is the place I like to call home, a small town situated on the East Rand of the Gauteng Province in South Africa and about 15 kilometers (9 miles) south east of Johannesburg. The town itself celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005, of which I have been a resident since my birth in 1973.

In 2007, we moved into a newly built three-bedroom house. One of the interesting developments during the construction phase was the upper floor’s concrete slab – a combination lintels and pre-formed polystyrene blocks. It keeps the total mass down and acts as a good insulator of heat and cold. But that’s where the energy efficiency ended, as we had 47 halogen down lights installed (40-50W), which consumes a fair chunk of our electricity bill.

Chatting to a few friends around the braai — that’s a barbeque to non-South Africans — we were discussing how much we spend on electricity per month. One friend spends R200 (about $25), another friend spends R400 ($50). I spend about R800 ($100), which got me thinking that I need to investigate why. As Mariëtte works from home, the electrical bill would naturally be higher, but definitely not accounting for that high an amount.

In 2009 we experienced load shedding from our country’s sole supplier of electricity, Eskom. It was their way of proportioning demand for electricity in a fair way, at least in their eyes. It was caused by the ignorance of senior government officials 10-15 years ago, when the request to build more power stations was declined as they couldn’t foresee a shortage of electricity generation all those years ago. As a result of the sudden need to build more power stations, the price of electricity has increased between 25-40 percent year on year for the past 2 years, and it will continue for some time to come.

In my opinion, many South Africans are not very conscious when it comes to energy efficiency and ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Separation of waste, i.e. paper, plastic, metal, general waste, etc. is done at multi-national companies because of international environmental standards being forced down the supply chain, but it definitely doesn’t happen at household levels. Dustbins are collected once a week, and you’ll find anything and everything being dumped in the same bin.

During my search for ways to reduce my electricity consumption, I came across a link to the 360° Energy Diet that encouraged me to do something positive. I’m actually embarrassed to state that I’m fully aware of actions to reduce my carbon footprint yet I’ve not done much about it. Now is my chance to declare my intent, publicly, that I will reduce my carbon footprint, and record it in this blog. There’s a lot to do and learn, but I’m hoping my actions will rub off on a few people and their actions rub off on a few more, much like those pyramid schemes were intended to network.