The shortage of gas was predictable and it is shocking that not enough was done to fast track the importation of LPG.
The main reason for the shortage is that people are turning to gas for cooking and heating because of the high cost of electricity and load shedding.
This trend was so strong that there was now a shortage of gas cylinders.
Encouraging the use of gas is one of the best ways to deal with the peak-hour demand for electricity and it is the peak-hour demand that causes all the problems. That’s why the load-shedding takes place in the evenings when stoves and heaters are turned on.
In 2006 Eskom had a clear understanding of the problem. In the Western Cape alone they had replaced 60 000 paraffin stoves with gas ones. Unfortunately this programme was not continued and many of the poor who swopped their paraffin stoves were now struggling to find gas.
Import facilities for LPG were inadequate and there had been long and unnecessary delays in building a big new terminal at Saldanha Bay. Gas is such an important part of the solution to our energy problems now and in the future that we expected it to be given priority. Gas is also a solution that the government does not have to finance (unlike power stations) because the private sector will do it.
Other problems were the temporary closing of refineries for essential maintenance and problems with the gas supply at the old Mosgas plant now run by Petro SA.
What is really distressing is that all these problems were predictable and that so little was done to prepare for them.
The gas shortage affected households and business in much the same way as load shedding did but businesses knew what their reserves were and that gave them a measure of control. The problem is that businesses now have to find ways to use less gas and that will probably mean less production and perhaps even fewer jobs. It could all have been avoided with a little planning and a sense of urgency. Both were lacking.
President of the Cape Chamber