Smart Water Heating Could Help In South Africa’s Energy Crisis

By centrally controlling when household water heaters (geysers) can be switched on and off, South Africa can ease up electricity demand during peak consumption times. Shutterstock

By MJ (Thinus) Booysen

South Africa’s energy crisis has many dimensions, from political and economic to technical and environmental. Recently, the country’s power utility, Eskom, has been generating only about 60% of its capacity and has had to restrict usage to prevent a regional blackout.

Eskom’s new chief executive officer has affirmed the importance of demand management to handle the crisis. But his approach of merely “subsidising energy-efficient lightbulbs” won’t cut it. The country needs drastic interventions – and the elements of the fourth industrial revolution are available to make this possible. These are: wireless connectivity, the internet of things, big data analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence and intelligent centralised control.

One of the biggest consumers of energy in South Africa is the electric water heater, or “geyser”. The estimated 5.4 million electric water heaters in South African homes and public buildings use around 40 GWh of energy per day, draining more than 4 GW, 12% of operational capacity from the electricity grid at peak times. Read more…

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