You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Jacob Marley’ tag.

Sir, As usual at this time of the year, I went to visit the Three Ghosts of Christmas to enquire what their wishes in this season of goodwill would be. The senior Ghost of Christmas Past was naturally hankering back to the good old days of sixpacks, cheap coal and even cheaper electricity in abundant and secure supply. It looks like his wishes might be true for a long time to come with Coal 3 and the awesome nuclear fleet on the horizon… (more)

When one has been dragging chains made of one’s own folly around for over 170 years, one is alert to that happening to others in spite of the availability of the most sophisticated tools for forecasting, planning and control. The myriad pitfalls along the way are often of our own making and we end up becoming entrapped in them before we realise it… (more)

Sir, In the well-known fairy tale, the magic mirror is asked who is the fairest in the land. It is, of course, the wicked stepmother of Snow White. However, when her stepdaughter grows up, she becomes a “thousand times more beautiful” than her stepmother and and takes over the top spot. It remains a mystery as to why the ugly stepmother won the contest at all. It is only a fairy tale, not so?… (more)

Sir, I must caution at the outset that I am not intending to announce a competition related to distribution, and I indeed apologise if the heading created the wrong impression. I mean, however, to draw your erudite reader’s attention to the necessity of creating competition in the distribution industry. These thoughts were prompted by an interesting case serving before the Competition Commission. A large, virtual monopoly that dominates the market for its product in South Africa stands accused of undermining competition at distribution level because of exclusive arrangements with its own appointed distributors to the detriment of independent ones – at least, that is what is claimed… (more)

Common wisdom holds that every cloud has a silver lining and that the darkest hour is just before the dawn breaks. So it seems that the electricity supply industry, which has been shrouded in dark misery for six or seven years now – and rudderless for twice that long – may be experiencing its darkest hour… (more)

Sir, I hope I may be forgiven for reminiscing about some of the links in the electricity industry’s chain. To explain what that means, allow me recap, for the benefit of some of your erudite readers, some details about myself. I was born on 21 April 1765, which event took place just over 248 years ago. It was called the Age of Enlightenment, which also gave birth to the infant electricity industry… (more)

Sir, Two articles, nicely juxtapositioned on the same page of a leading business daily last month, caught my eye and I am tempted to put the merits of my case to your erudite readers. The first article was all about electric cars, or rather, how to create a market for them. Electric cars, you might recall, are those wonderful machines that will phase out the horse-buggy and the hansom cab and – oh yes, of course – the internal combustion engine… (more)

Scrooge and I used to sit to deep into the night at times, discussing our business in the old counting house. As your erudite readers may recall, Scrooge and Marley was a simple business: we bought and sold and hoped to make a profit. At one stage we were in linen; it was profitable if one kept a tight rein on costs. And that is where the rub often lay; for Scrooge and I were often at variance about exactly what the real cost price of our stock was… (more)

Sir, I recall that sunny day in early March 1923 when it was announced in the government gazette that an Electricity Supply Commission (Escom) had been established under the chairmanship of Dr. Hendrik van der Bijl. £500 was borrowed from the treasury (which was rapidly repaid), and Escom set up an office in Johannesburg and set to work ensuring a cheap and abundant supply of electricity wherever it was needed in South Africa. That was ninety years ago. Since then, it has been a wild roller-coaster ride, times when both the “cheap” and “abundant” were either in oversupply or desperately short. Escom was an upstart, a minor also-ran in the industry, and there was plenty of competition… (more)

Sir, My attention was drawn recently to an article that appeared in something called and was headlined “Inertia to investigate integration of prosumers to the smart grid”. It was, self-evidently, about a project called INERTIA (Integrating Active, Flexible and Responsive Tertiary Prosumers into a Smart Distribution Grid). There were all manner of acronyms ranging from Certh-ITI to DERs in the text, enough to make anyone’s head swim… (more)

“It was a good year, I dare say,” ventured the Ghost of Christmas Past. ‘No blackouts, no revolving brown-outs, the lights were kept on and we were assured continually that everything was on track. A complete waste of that good standby generator I acquired after the big blackout of 2008… (more)

Sir, One cannot fail but to be astounded by the scale of miniaturisation (and that, I am afraid, Sir, was how I was learnt to spell it, to distinguish it from miniaturing, or miniaturising and – heaven Forbid – dimunitisation or dimunition) in the electricity industry today. If one reflects back on the days of Gilbert and Volta and looks at the first steam engines Watt  built and turbines that Parsons built, then Watt for Pound, the industry has come a long way. But that is nothing compared to what the clever pundits tell us, still lies ahead… (more)

Reflecting the other day during a blackout brought me to ponder, mindful of my woeful ignorance of pastoral practices, the topical question of whether there were  similarities between lambs and participants in the electricity industry… (more)

Sir: I offer these tips because a slew of annual reports from across the industry have made their appearance, and your erudite readers might, when perusing these tomes of information, like to have at their fingertips some analytical tools with which to delve into the often dense material to separate fact from fiction… (more)

Sir: It is common cause that not long ago solar energy was riding high. A new dawn had broken and the sun stood high in the blue skies everywhere from Africa to Arizona. The prospect of a bright, sustainable and clean energy future seemed at hand. Rooftops were being occupied from Germany to Germiston. Before one knew it, people were talking and tweeting renewable, REFIT and REIPPP and a host of other acronyms as if they were second nature… (more)

At the recent customary gathering of the three ghosts of Christmas to which I had been invited, I was strongly reminded of that haunting chorus of the three witches from the dreaded Scottish play, which goes, if memory serves, something like this: Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble. There are nasties like swelter’d venom, fillet of a fenny snake and the ubiquitous eye of newt and toe of frog aplenty swirling around in the foully bubbling brew… (more)

The electricity price – quake before the eruption.
I’m told by people in the know that there are many signs that a volcanic eruption is about to happen. There are earth tremors well in advance and there become increasingly more violent tremblers, leading up to an earthquake or two. Even animals become restless and some flee the area. Only some time later does the volcano start to rumble, spew out dust and gas and eventually the whole thing blows its top, making a right mess is things for miles around… (more)

Wading through the mass of IPP Procurement Process documents the other day made me think of the first poker game I was dragged off to by my partner Scrooge. The game had been introduced to London society by the celebrated Mr Crowell, an artist who had just returned from Louisiana and it was hosted at the aptly named Orleans Hotel, a posh antecedent to the less stylish Cavendish of today… (more)

Of course everyone is rightly horrified by the latest steep increase in electricity tariffs and the continuing turmoil in the industry. All kinds of dire consequences are apparently to be visited upon those who consume more than their fair share. So much for price signals – the price/demand curve seems to be totally inelastic, a lesson that one cannot but hope will sink in to the powers-that-be behind the carbon tax… (more)

“I believe,” said the ghost of Christmas past the other day, “that there is nothing as tempting for the powers-that-be than to meddle with something that works well. History is littered with examples: the nationalisation of industries since time immemorial, the creation of behemoth state institutions that get bogged down into their own incompetence and have to be put down at massive public expense, and the cosy monopolies so beloved of bureaucrats (but not in the private sector, of course).”… (more)

 I do not presume to know much about the maintenance of electrical substations for, as you know, I shuffled off this mortal coil well before this new skill came into being. Also, this newfangled thing called the internet is a bit beyond my ken, but my attention was drawn the other day to a picture purporting to proclaim the procedure in case of a power failure posted on the wall of a substation building, which I thought was worth a comment or two… (more)

Your excellent publication is to be congratulated for putting sustainable energy so firmly on the agenda, although I fear it will be a tough task to keep the flag flying high. Business, it seems, is more interested, like my old partner Scrooge, in turning a fast penny (and so do politicians, I fear).  But there is hope yet – remember that even grumpy Scrooge ended up having Christmas turkey with the Cratchits. So I will persist in rattling my chains and making your erudite readers think not about what might have been, but what can be if men (and women, I dare say) of sound mind thought about the future they really wanted and did what really needed to be done… (more)

No doubt your erudite readers are tired of hearing that hoary old chestnut about how many men/women/whatnots it takes to change a light bulb (nil, of course, because why would one want to change a perfectly good light bulb? Nobody said there was anything wrong with it, did they?). I beg their indulgence, however, for regaling them with recent discussions I had with my familiars, the Ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future… (more)


It is not polite to say “I told you so”, but your erudite readers will recall that I remarked  last month that it would be very difficult to pick the right answer from about 4-million different ones. And that’s exactly what happened with IRP2010… (more)

Your enlightened readers may have felt a certain degree of satisfaction upon reading last month that Eskom completed its program of exchanging no fewer than eight million old-fashioned, inefficient electricity-guzzling incandescent light bulbs for the new super-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) type… (more)

Sir- I was interested to learn recently that the eagerly awaited Second Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2010) of the Department of Energy is due by October of this year. Even more encouragingly, it seems to have drawn a lot of reaction from the public. Over eighty submissions were received, and the department had fed over 830 specific inputs into the database which is to be used to build various scenarios. This will be done using 29 parameters, . Quite a list, one has to admit… (more)

In Roman times the emperors laid on games for the hoi-poloi to keep them off the streets and preserve the Pax Romana. They gave them bread, too, not just cake. In the splendid stadia, sumptuous feasts were held in congenial surroundings and enough blood and gore was provided to control the crowds if not to manipulate them. It would present a certain complication, though, if halfway through the devouring of the Christians by the lions, the torches were all to go out because someone had short-changed the pitch for a nice little backhander… (more)

Sir- A fellow denizen of the netherworld, the gloomy Ghost of the Waves, paid me an unexpected visit the other night. It’s always a bit eerie, he said without ado, this calm before the storm. Upon asking what he meant, he added cryptically: “Well, think of a tsunami. The sea suddenly goes glassy-flat and then starts to pull back – slowly, easily, lazily and with a strange lack of realism… (more)

It is often said that old codgers are not as smart at doing sums compared to the wiz-kids of today. Of course we didn’t use computers, but neither were we stumped when the power supply failed. We used pencil and paper or slate and brain and produced reliable results all the same. We were taught that it pays to keep things simple… ( more)

As I roam the streets at night, unable to sleep because of my heavy chain and shackles, I often wonder how I can prevent others from ending up with the same intolerable burden. I note with concern a sudden richness in pundits on the topic of electricity pricing, which is of course, as one would call it today, a hot topic and wonder what drives people to think about these things.  In my days economic erudition came from Mr. Adam Smith and his ilk, and he was more concerned with the wealth of whole nations rather than in bits and pieces. These days it is all to do with funding and pricing, long run averages, marginal and time-of-use and of course, cost-reflectiveness… (more)

As you know, my principal aim since shuffling off this mortal coil all those years ago is to prevent my friends, and even executives, from amassing chains of guilt and regrets, of keys, padlocks, cash-boxes and heavy purses by showing them the error of their ways. So I recently felt obliged to visit, in the dead of night, a well-known senior executive in the industry and take him to see the three customary ghosts. Not the ghosts of christmas, of course, but it was cold and dark nevertheless… (more)

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