Students line up to make their pledge to save
electricity during Eskom’s 49m campaign at UKZN

Eskom’s energy saving initiative, 49m, has visited UKZN campuses to encourage staff and students to save energy at Residences, in offices and in their homes.

According to 49m, the initiative aims to inspire and rally all South Africans behind a common goal – save electricity and create a better economic, social and environmental future for all. The initiative was named after South Africa’s population figure at the time of the campaign’s launch.

‘Essentially, electricity cannot be stored, and at the moment the needs of our thriving country are putting our resources under strain. This is why we need to save electricity wherever we can,’ said a 49m spokesperson.

‘You may not realise it, but we’re all connected, and by acting together we can achieve amazing things. If we all reduced our energy usage by just 10 percent it would be as effective as building a brand new power station. That’s the power of 49M, that’s the power of you.

‘If we all constantly ask ourselves – at work or at home – how we can cut back, then we will succeed. It’s about changing our habits ever so slightly, and the good news is that there are a lot of little things that you can do to make a huge difference.

‘Electricity is a valuable and rare resource that allows government to build and run the services we expect. It allows industry to compete and prosper. For every individual it provides the safety of light, the opportunity to learn and the benefits of 21st century health care – among many other things we take for granted,’ said the spokesperson.

‘It is unthinkable that we should allow our supply of precious energy to be drained dry.

‘As both government and Eskom are taking every possible step to do their bit, we are calling on every South African to help out. When it comes to saving electricity, everyone wins, so there is no excuse not to do it.’

Students had the opportunity to make a pledge to save electricity and were shown how important it is to use solar panels for their computers and entertainment needs. Local celebrities were available to speak to the students and give advice on the importance of saving energy.

Some of the tips shared with the students include switching off geysers between 9am and 5pm, removing the cellphone charger off the wall when charging is complete, switching off the TV at the wall plug, boiling just enough water for a cup of tea and using as much daylight as possible.


South Africa produces around 45 percent of all Africa’s electricity and since electricity fuels progress, the country can be proud of this.

However, there are drawbacks. As 90 percent of our electricity is still coal generated, SA has sadly become a major per capita atmospheric polluter. About 200 megatons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year.It is clear cleaner solutions are needed.

Eskom is currently exploring many different ways of generating electricity including solar power, wind turbines and tidal power. But for now, coal is the most cost-effective way for South Africa to generate power.

This is why Eskom have embarked on a massive building programme to add some 12000MW to its capacity by 2019. However, power supply from the two new coal-fired stations – Medupi and Kusile – only started in 2012 and will be 100 percent available in 2019.

In the interim we face a dilemma. There is no realistic way to store large quantities of electricity, so the amount being fed into the grid must always match what the customers are taking out. This varies not just from day to day, but from minute to minute.

As the demand increases, more stations must be brought into play. This is planned in advance because starting-up and shutting-down operations are slow and complicated. Additionally, some stations generate electricity more cheaply than others.

The main peaks usually occur at about 6am and lasts until about midday. A second peak period is usually from about 5pm until 9pm. The morning demand is due to many main industries such as mining, iron and steel smelters and railway networks starting up operations.

At these peak times the grid is put under severe strain. This is when the importance of the 49M initiative is evident. When the whole country works together, everyone wins. (

With March being the Energy Efficiency Month, students are encouraged to save energy and to look out for UKZN’s upcoming energy saving initiatives.