I've got the Power!

And I must be one of the few in South Africa who does. Load-shedding by our sole supplier Eskom is rampant, and a general bitch-and-moan can be heard country-wide. It's all over the news, it's all over the radio, and it's the subject of every single conversation.

"Seeking a suburb with power" has become a national pasttime as folk attempt to take a client out for coffee or source a restaurant meal. Others simply eat gas-cooked fare by candlelight. Some are getting creative - the braai & starlight option has seen more than one rediscover the joy of no electronic distractions and time with family.

We've been lucky so far (touch wood - that is a non-conductor after all) - at home we've had no outages yet, and at the office the few brief blackouts are soon over when the massive generator in the basement kicks in. The only inconvenience has been traffic lights asleep and backing up traffic.

But this is a bad one. We've already got horrific food, drink and fuel increases, and the lack of power is adding to the problem. Businesses are losing cash daily as everything goes down and out without warning for hours on end.

And it's not a simply story, this one.

For one thing, Eskom's supplying our neighbouring countries with power - at our expense. And then there's the "fighting crime" aspect: some folk have taken to leaving their lights on day and night - why? So that cable theft is discouraged. If the line's in use, it's not going to get tampered with. But this chews up juice, adds to the load, and then we all get shed - and the criminals move in. Dig up the lines, take advantage of off security systems, you name it.

It's all a little ridiculous. And frightening. There's not a heck of a lot the Common Man can do about it.

Yet there's hope - of a sort. A few years ago Eskom started to look into wind power, and now it seems they may finally utilize it. Of course the fact that they've blocked anyone else from trying to put up a wind farm is just a moot point. This is a monopoly, after all.

Then there are the locals who are simply doing their own thing. Unfortunately, unlike other countries, South Africans can't re-supply the local grid with excess power - it's illegal.

But we do have loads of wind. Just ask Favourite Man, who has been trying to weld in the face of it for two days now.

There's generators as an option, of course - which many companies are now resorting to in desperation as their profits crumble.

There's solar too - and that's on the rise as innovations bring the cost of units down. I've always maintained that those farmers who complain of endless years of drought should start farming in sunshine, seeing they have too much of it - simply cover the farm in solar panels and generate power for the rest of us instead of trying to irrigate in the face of a losing battle.

There again - monopoly rules, and who knows how much red tape that particular scheme would encounter before some government fat-cat squeezes the farmer out and lives off the profits himself.

So what to do? At the moment, not a whole lot. Just deal with it, face the blackouts with a best-foot-forward (don't stub it in the dark) and wonder why we haven't overthrown the government that apologized for letting us down, but can't seem to do much more than talk about it.