Innovative Energy Solutions in Clarens
Clarens, a small arts town in the Free State, has earned the distinction of becoming South Africa’s first ‘smart town’. This transformation, achieved through a collaborative project with Eskom, leverages app-based load management to revolutionize how the town handles electricity demand.
Group Curtailment: A Community Endeavor: Clarens is the first to pilot the concept of ‘group curtailment’, where the entire community collectively manages electricity load during times of strain. Eskom provides a two-hour notice for load curtailment to the group coordinator, who then directs the community on the necessary actions. This approach involves a 10% to 20% reduction in demand during curtailment stages 1 to 4, a significant shift from the typical load shedding process.
Technology at the Forefront: To facilitate this smart management, Clarens uses a specially developed application. This app acts as a trigger for residents to implement their load reduction strategies. It works in tandem with a meter at the town’s main supply point, which sends real-time demand data every minute, ensuring the community stays on track with the required reductions.
The Positive Impact on Community Life: Gert Kruger, the group coordinator and local business owner, highlights the profound change this initiative has brought, especially for a town reliant on tourism. “For a town that depends on tourism, not being subjected to load shedding is life-changing,” he notes. The initiative enjoys strong community support, as residents and businesses understand the mutual benefits of cooperation.
Eskom’s Endorsement and Future Plans: Eskom has applauded the project’s success, noting that Clarens residents have been able to effectively reduce and manage their electricity load. This success story is not only pivotal for Clarens but also sets a benchmark for similar smart town projects across South Africa.
The transformation of Clarens into a smart town represents a significant stride in energy management. It’s a testament to the power of community cooperation, innovative technology, and proactive measures in overcoming the challenges of load shedding. This pioneering effort by Clarens could well be the blueprint for other towns in South Africa, marking a new chapter in the country’s approach to energy crises.