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Remember January and February 2008 which was wet and unseasonably cold and we ran into rolling blackouts when Eskom’s stockpiles of coal ran low? Well, fast forward a few years to 2013 and the prospect of winter where demand for electricity exceeds an already over-stretched capacity AND there are shortages of coal following industrial action in the coal industry. There have already been unplanned outages which have “squeezed Eskom’s spare capacity to levels last seen in 2008 when the company used load-shedding to prevent the entire system from collapsing” (The Times, 20 March 2013).

Over the years futurefact has been asking South Africans about their attitudes to electricity and Eskom. In 2008 (the year when we went back to candles), 88% of South Africans said they would be prepared to switch off electrical appliances to save electricity with 84% saying they were already doing so. The economic downturn reduced demand for electricity and as a result there were fewer power outages and Eskom appeared to be coping with the level of power demanded. Older power stations were re-commissioned and new power stations like Medupi were being constructed. South Africans became more complacent but were still prepared to do their bit and even in 2012, three-quarters were trying to reduce their electricity consumption (and with the tariff hikes, their electricity accounts). Despite everything, South Africans remained confident in Eskom (30% had complete confidence and 40% some confidence).

But winter looms, Medupi is way behind schedule and without coal, prepare for blackouts. Futurefact finds that most South African consumers are prepared to do what they can to reduce their electricity consumption but there has to be some electricity there for them to switch off!

futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998. The findings presented above are from futurefact 2012 which is based on a probability sample of 2,946 adults aged 15 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa representing 21.6 million adults.

If you would like to find out more about futurefact and its extensive attitudinal databases please contact Jos Kuper 082 904 9939 or check out www.futurefact.co.za