Eskom works to keep the lights on

Thursday, December 6, 2018

It’s all hands on deck at Eskom as the power utility tries to save South Africa from a black Christmas and lower the stages of load shedding currently underway.

With the short-term goal of reducing load shedding to a minimum of stage one, as opposed to the stage two currently underway, all senior managers have been asked to cancel their festive leave as Eskom works around the clock to keep the lights on.

At a briefing at Megawatt Park on Thursday, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan assured the public that his department and Eskom are hard at work to put a plan in place that will ensure stability.

Poor management and poor maintenance of old power stations was highlighted by the Minister as some of the reasons for the load shedding, which Gordhan termed a “crisis.”  

“Today we feel the effect of State capture and the reality that we have very old power stations that we are operating,” said Gordhan.

Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza backed the Minister, highlighting that the power utility had pinned its hopes on new power stations, which did not live up to expectations.

“We have not maintained when we should have maintained and now the stuff is tearing, and when we got the money, we decided to put it into building a new plant with the hopes that it will help but that was not so,” he said.

According to Eskom, the newest among the power plants – Kusile and Medupi – were earmarked to produce 7 800 megawatts but this has not been the case.

This, Gordhan said, was partly as a result of substandard work by contractors and subcontractors.

In a bid to combat load shedding, the Minister said a week-by-week-plan must be implemented in the coming days to instruct who will take responsibility and to determine weak points.

Furthermore, the power utility said it will deploy some of its expert staff based at its head office to power stations to assess some of the challenges on the ground.

On Eskom’s R400 billion debt burden, Gordhan said if operational issues of keeping the lights on can be addressed, the power utility will slowly start to chip away at this mammoth task.

“Our immediate concern now is to get the operations going because once we deal with that, we will start to address the debt issue,” he said.

Looking to the future, Gordhan said the President will soon announce a task team that will turn around the situation at the power utility.

Concluding the briefing, the Minister appealed to South Africans to do their bit in conserving the energy as the power utility works to stabilise the situation. –