Researchers in South Africa are affected by the country’s ongoing power outages and worry about how the electricity crisis will affect their research output.


Researchers in South Africa are affected by the country’s ongoing power outages and worry about how the electricity crisis will affect their research output.

The state-owned power company Eskom’s poor management, outdated infrastructure, lack of investment in the industry, and limited energy sources are all contributing factors to the current electricity crisis in South Africa.

The primary energy supplier in South Africa, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., has been implementing load shedding, which involves imposing planned and coordinated power outages for a period of time each day.

Tweet from Eskom on February 27 stated that “Load shedding is done to protect the national electricity network by balancing supply and demand. “If this is not done, the entire nation will go dark for days to weeks, and the national grid will completely shut down.”

According to Nonhlanhla Vilakazi, a senior lecturer in the zoology department at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa’s frequent power outages have an effect on research. “Load shedding has impacted the research outputs of many scientists,” the author claims.

One illustration is Cola Mthembu, a doctoral candidate at the University of South Africa’s microbiology department. “Sample integrity in laboratories is disrupted by the cuts’ frequency,” she claims. Mthembu informs us that research and testing turnaround times have significantly slowed down.

“Laboratories spend a lot of money on reagents and equipment, and the backup systems needed to handle load shedding are expensive for labs that are already paying a lot to process samples,” Mthembu asserts that in order to avoid the scheduled load shedding times, researchers must closely monitor them.

If not, she continues, “it’s a matter of having backup power for crucial samples or using different freezing methods that will ensure sample integrity when the power eventually comes back. Mthokozisi Moyo, a doctoral candidate in the department of animal, plant, and environmental science at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, has had a nightmare adjusting to the various load shedding schedules.

In the digital age, Moyo claims that he has been compelled to return to the “old school” method of operating. As soon as he has access to power, he types what he has written down on paper.

At the Mining Indaba conference earlier this month (6–9 February), South Africa’s minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe, stated that a long-term energy security plan was in place to address the load shedding issue.

During his State of the Nation address on February 9th, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster as a result of the energy crisis.

Ramaphosa later claimed that local authorities, not him, were in charge of providing electricity in response to a constitutional challenge brought against him by the opposition party.

Independent energy expert Lungile Mashele, who is based in South Africa, informs us that load shedding has led to the loss of important samples and data, which may have long-term effects on the results of her research.

She claims it is difficult to find alternative energy sources because mini sub-stations, an electrical connection system made for smaller spaces, are expensive and difficult for most South Africans to access. Mashele claims that science is essential to the creation of additional energy sources to supplement the present low capacity.

“When it comes to solving the power problem, scientists must be at the forefront. We must devise methods for advancing science without electricity,” “she claims.

Vilakazi furthers, “We have been preaching the need to save the planet as researchers. I believe it is time to take action and stop depending on the government. I think scientists should lead the charge in solving the power problem.” “We need to develop and produce equipment that doesn’t solely rely on electricity, as well as think of new ways to advance science without using electricity.”