Eskom's LED giveaway: more details emerge - TechCentral

Eskom’s LED giveaway: more details emerge

It emerged last week that Eskom plans to kit out consumers’ homes with expensive but energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) downlighters and other power-saving gear for free. Now, the utility says the project is set to continue well into next year as it strives to reduce SA’s residential power consumption by a gigawatt.

Eskom partner Karebo Systems, one of the companies Eskom has appointed for the project, this week began rolling out free products to consumers. “Karebo is the only company running at the moment, but it will be joined by others in coming weeks,” Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger tells TechCentral.

After Karebo was appointed, Etzinger says Eskom was inundated with applications from potential partners, so much so that it has had to rethink how it appointed them. This resulted in delays to the commencement of the project beyond the original target date of September.

“We need to refine our commercial process to see how we deal with oversubscription,” Etzinger explains. “There will be delays, but the cause is positive. It’s because there’s been such a big uptake of the programme.”

Karebo’s target is to reduce consumer electricity consumption by 80MW by the end of this year. However, that’s only the first phase of the project. Etzinger says Eskom wants to reduce consumption by 1 000MW over the course of the project.

Eskom is footing the bill for all the energy-saving equipment as well as for installation costs — and the downlighters being supplied do not come cheap. The funds are coming from Eskom’s “integrated demand management” programme. The programme gets its resources from a fund that collects a percentage of Eskom’s revenue and designates it to efficiency projects.

“Nersa (the National Energy Regulator of SA) gives us permission to spend a percentage of our income from customers on energy-saving projects,” Etzinger explains. “This project is within the guidelines of the regulator.”

He says projects like this one will allow Eskom to save on both operational and capital costs and the hope is these savings will be passed on to consumers.

Karebo director Ravi Govender says the company’s roll-out will be limited to SA’s six largest metropolitan areas, three in Gauteng, and one apiece in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape.

Karebo expects to replace downlighters, geyser timers and other equipment in 50 000 households before it reaches its target of an 80MW reduction in power consumption. Despite having done no marketing, by the middle of this week Karebo already had more than 15 000 sign-ups from interested consumers.

Andrew Etzinger

Etzinger says Eskom hasn’t been proscriptive with suppliers in terms of the areas they must cover, but metropolitan areas are, understandably, the “low-hanging fruit” because of population density.

“We would certainly welcome suppliers working with rural areas,” says Etzinger. “We expect this to happen with future suppliers, particularly as metropolitan areas are served by the project and suppliers have to look elsewhere.”

Because the project is funded through public funds that are administered by Eskom, Karebo has to keep all bulbs, downlighters and showerheads it replaces for audit purposes.

Govender says that although Eskom hasn’t stipulated which equipment suppliers its partners must use beyond certain core specifications, Karebo has opted for Philips LED downlighters, Eurolux compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and Methven shower heads, which he says are used in a number of European and Middle Eastern hotels.

“We’ve taken into account the security concerns of your average South African,” says Govender. Karebo uses an appointment-based system to arrange installation times with customers, who are given a password that Karebo’s staff must provide upon their arrival. “No one arrives unannounced and our vehicles and staff are branded. We also use tablet computers and mobile phones to take pictures of the installations.”

As of this week, Karebo has 400 two-person teams on the road — one electrical technician and an assistant — but this will grow to 800 by next month.

Installations are done on weekdays or on Saturdays and Govender is confident Karebo will meet its contractual target of completing its installation target by the end of December.

“We’ve previously rolled out 5,5m CFLs in six weeks,” he says. “We’re geared for rapid roll-outs like this.”

Once sign-ups reach a certain threshold, Karebo will prevent further sign-ups, but Govender says those that sign up will be served.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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