The savage gridlock that has characterised power failures in major centres recently could soon be a thing of the past if the Central Energy Fund’s (CEF) plan to install solar-powered traffic lights comes to fruition.

“This is an urgent intervention to help alleviate the chaos on our roads which results from power outages and which is impacting negatively on the economy of our country, whenever there is load-shedding,” said CEF Group of Companies CEO Mputumi Damane.

R40-million has already been committed to the project by public and private-sector stakeholders and the CEF believes funds for the project could rise to more than R100-million.

Thousands of traffic lights at critical intersections have already been earmarked for solar power installations in a number of cities and towns across the country.

More than 2 000 critical traffic intersections have already been identified in Johannesburg alone. Other sites have also been identified at eThekwini, Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay and Nelspruit.

Installations are expected to begin in Johannesburg within the next few weeks, subject to the delivery of certain imported components.

Normally, some of the components for the installations would be shipped to South Africa from overseas, but because of the urgency of the matter, the CEF has arranged to have the first few hundred units flown in to the country.

The project, which is managed by the National Energy Efficiency Agency (NEEA), a division of CEF, will draw from the experience gained by a solar-powered traffic lights pilot which has been running successfully in Cape Town since September last year.

NEEA acting operations manager Barry Bredenkamp said the project was about alleviating the energy crisis in a broader context.

“Traffic congestion leads to unnecessary use of petroleum, which in itself is becoming a scarce and expensive form of energy. Productivity losses, injuries as a result of potential accidents at uncontrolled intersections, exhaust emissions from stationary motor vehicles, when quantified in monetary terms, all have a major adverse effect on the overall economy of our country,” he said.

The CEF group of companies comprises PetroSA; the South African Gas Development Company, iGAS; Petroleum Agency SA, Oil Pollution Control SA, the Strategic Fuel Fund Association, African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation and the South African National Energy Research Institute.