After the near countless allegations of nepotism, corruption, fraud and general mismanagement at Eskom, resulting in widespread loadshedding across the country, you’d think that things really couldn’t get any worse.
But you’d be wrong, because it turns out that even when they do manage to supply us with electricity, that electricity is often of very poor quality.
It seems that the coal and the diesel that our national power utility has been using is substandard, and thus the electricity it produces is not up to much either. Customers have reported devices running slowly, fridges not cooling properly and – in some extreme cases – power cords becoming clogged with “dirty electrons”.
While the principle of generating electricity by burning fossil fuels is fairly straightforward, the actual logistics and processes carried out in the power stations are more complicated and require a decent understanding of chemistry and physics. It’s probably a little beyond the average guy on the street, but basically as far as I understand it, the electricity we use is a flow of sub-atomic particles called electrons. Usually, an electron would carry a charge of -1, but because of the poor quality fuels being burned to produce our power, many of the electrons being produced in Mpumalanga and surrounds only have a charge of -0.8, and in one particular case recently in Ceres in the Western Cape, as low as -0.6, which caused TVs in the town to run in slow motion.
Not only do these crappy electrons not provide the correct amount of charge, their lack of correct strength means that they become “sticky”. Usually, an electron with a charge of -1 would innately repel any other electrons in its vicinity, but these “dirty”, less powerful electrons repel each other less, and that raises the danger of them sticking together in a lump within the wires and cables of the electricity system. Think of it like a blood clot in a coronary artery – and we all know the consequences of that. (It’s a heart attack, just in case you didn’t know the consequences of that.)
The sad fact is that the coal and diesel stockpiled for emergency use during these (often quite literally) dark times is all likely to be from the same batches, and so even though we might be getting electricity some of the time, it’s probably not going to be up to much.
There’s not much you can do to escape this poor quality electricity, save from giving your cables a good shake every couple of days to hopefully dislodge any build-up of sticky electrons before they get too clogged up. So just another thing to remember. Oh, and be mindful that smaller wires, like those in cellphone chargers, are particularly at risk.
There’s no quick fix here, folks. Much like Eskom in general. Much like the ANC. Sadly, we’re all going to have to get used to turning our fridges up and running Youtube videos at 1.25x speed until this passes.
Have you experienced problems with “dirty” electricity recently? Or do you have ideas to combat the damage it may do? Please comment below.