Let’s keep the lights on

Given the current load shedding crisis in South Africa, emergency generators are without a doubt some of the most important and sought-after machines in the country. Unfortunately, it is also expensive to keep them running.


eish! asked Hendrik Esterhuizen, director for engineering compliance in the Facilities department, to tell us about the NWU’s emergency power system and the costs related to it.

Hendrik Esterhuizen, the director for engineering compliance at Facilities, urges all staff to use electricity sparingly, especially when we are on emergency power.

Click on the blocks below to learn more about the emergency power distribution and load control on each campus.

Q: What is the main objective of the NWU’s emergency power system?

A: Its core function is to keep the main business functions of the NWU operational during load shedding or a general power outage.

In other words, we aim to enable staff and students to continue with their daily work and study routines, keeping in mind that this is not “business as usual”, as we all have to save electricity when we are on emergency power.

Q:  When did we acquire this system and how effective is it now?

A: The NWU’s emergency power system was designed and put into place between 2008 and 2012.

At that stage, the emergency power generated was sufficient for each campus, but as the campuses expanded and the number of buildings and users kept growing, this is simply not the case any more.

Q: What do we do when the demand is higher than the available emergency power capacity?

A: In such cases we have to implement high-level load control. This means switching off the power in certain sections of a campus or providing only enough power to keep critical areas functional.

We do this to make sure that the core business of the university can continue. In other words, places such as lecture halls, laboratories, examination facilities, dining halls and research facilities are our priorities.

Q: How expensive is it to keep the generators running?

A: The diesel costs for running generators are approximately R40 000 per hour in Potchefstroom, R20 000 per hour at Mahikeng and R15 000 per hour in Vanderbijlpark. That makes it a whopping R75 000 per hour for all three campuses.

Q: What can we as staff do to alleviate the problem?

A: One of the biggest challenges is getting people to reduce energy consumption, especially when we use emergency power. It is vital for everyone to remember that this emergency power system does not replace Eskom or municipal supplies. Everybody needs to reduce their energy consumption by switching off the heating and air-conditioning systems and non-essential lights.

Q: A last word from you?

A: Since load shedding will certainly remain part of our lives for quite some time, let’s each do our bit to reduce electricity usage at the NWU, thereby enabling our core business to thrive.