No Chance

A couple of people sent me this article, and I see that Insty referred to it as well:

South Africa’s power blackouts: Solutions lie in solar farms, battery storage at scale, and an end to state monopoly

Rolling blackouts are costing South Africa dearly. The electricity crisis is a barrier to growth, destroys investor confidence and handicaps almost every economic activity. It has raised input costs for producers and retailers, and has triggered a new round of inflation and interest rate increases.

Any solution will obviously incur cost because it will require the adoption of new technologies, such as large-scale grid-connected that are linked to battery energy storage. But these technologies are expensive.

…which means that none of this is going to happen.  South Africa has been plundered by the Usual Suspects until the coffers are pretty much empty, taxes are about has high as can be levied without causing collapse — what happens when only about 15% of the population is at all economically active, and only 0.5% of taxpayers contribute over 85% of tax revenues.

Even in a perfectly-ordered society (which South Africa isn’t even close to), the job of fixing its power woes would be be pretty much impossible.  As things are… not gonna happen.

And let’s not even think about foreign investment.  While the amounts are quite small, relatively speaking, one always has to factor in corruption — which takes anywhere from 40% to 60% off the top — and loans will never be repaid.  Not even China will countenance investment, given that their previous forays into Africa have been, so far, disastrous.  And South Africa is not Sri Lanka.  They can’t be bullied into compliance with the Belt & Road program because the distances are just too great and the population large and resistant.  (China could say, “Okay, you’ve defaulted on your loan;  give us all your platinum”, whereupon South Africa would just say, “We can’t get the ore to the port;  come and get it.”)

Even if South Africa were suddenly to discover vast resources of lithium (similar to its vast coal reserves), they’d never be able to get the stuff out of the ground.  One would think that in a country with huge gold mines all over the place, a few lithium mines would be no problem.  Alas, the gold mines are now producing only about 40% of what they used to produce under the eeeevil Apartheid Government.

Those giant solar farms the article talks about?  They’d be stripped for parts within a month of installation.  And yes, surround them with security guards — except that the guards would become the new entrepreneurs, flogging solar panels and batteries to householders desperate for electricity.

As with any African catastrophe, there is no workable solution, no possible way that any kind of fix will be either implemented or have any kind of longevity.  If even ESCOM, an established, one-time robust powerhouse [sic]  that once delivered South Africa’s excess electricity to all its neighbors can be mismanaged into complete collapse, why would some newfangled, sophisticated (and fragile) eco-friendly solar system fare any better?

To paraphrase some guy’s earlier words:  let (South) Africa sink.  They deserve no better.


  1. Each person has to determine if solar is right for them. I have a manic need to control ALL aspects of my life and that means the way electricity is delivered to the things I use the most. I dislike the disruption of power outages.

    My office is detached from the main house and this is where I spend most of my time. 2 computer systems, a 42″ TV, a 7cf freezer, a small refrig. a microwave, and a vintage stereo system. Several guitars and amps and a couple keyboards. An 8k btu air conditioner, a few LED lamps. Not all of that stuff is used all of the time.

    Right now I have an Ecoflow Delta connected to 4 small solar panels and that powers the 2 computers, TV and fridge. ALL THE TIME. Later this year I will get another Delta rig to run the other stuff. It’s comforting when the power goes out to the main house but everything in my office continues to function. Real nice.

    The Ecoflow system is portable and it is my learning curve. In another year or 3 I will probably invest in a more permanent-conventional method. I am old skool and prefer to learn things in my own way and with a hands on mindset. If I can build it I can fix it when needed. Again, control. Youtube is slammed with people showing how to get involved with solar stuff.

  2. So… you wouldn’t be comfortable having the state manage your solar power?

    See the above article in confirmation.

    1. No I wouldn’t. I’m not comfortable with anyone controlling the things I need. Air, water, food, electric, etc. One sure way to fail is to hitch your wagon to anything gov’t. This has been proven over and over. The reasons? Stolen money, and lack of accountability, as usual.

      One way or the other most people will need to learn how to do with less – lifestyle adjustments. We’re going back to the 18th century.

  3. *** delete after reading ***
    Typo? — “…population large and restisting…”
    I appreciate all you do!

  4. Any power generation plan that includes solar panels and batteries is not serious. Even rich nations cannot afford enough batteries to maintain power overnight, let alone for several nights with cloudy days in between.

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