CAPE TOWN - Under-fire Eskom bosses still believe that they have load shedding under control despite not being able to tell the country when they will finally bring it to an end.
They are facing mounting calls to step down after Eskom yet again plunged the country into darkness when implementing stage 4 load shedding at short notice from Monday. The executives believe they have not dropped the ball.
Chief executive Andre de Ruyter defended himself and distanced himself from claims that he was playing into factions in the ANC. He said he has not considered stepping down.
He however apologised for the inconvenience caused in requesting citizens to assist in reducing demand.
“We understand that this is a huge inconvenience to the country. We apologise for the negative impact this has had, not only on the business industry, (but) particularly (to) those students who are currently writing their matric exams, and we want to request the support and co-operation of everyone to play their role in reducing demand, particularly during people hours,” De Ruyter said.
He added that the risk of load shedding remained until 4 000MW to 6 000MW of new capacity was added to the grid.
Eskom has blamed the unnamed municipalities it claimed did not comply when it came to implementing load shedding, he said, with Eskom having to deepen load shedding to stage 4 as a result.
The only two municipalities that had followed Eskom’s load shedding directives were Buffalo City and eThekwini.
Eskom chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer conceded that the power utility’s systems were unreliable, saying: “We implemented stage 4 load shedding to protect systems as it is best international practice.”
“If one more unit trips this week the country could be plunged into stage 6 load shedding, with seven units already out,” warned former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe.
In an exclusive interview with Independent Media, Molefe questioned the latest bout of load shedding and warned that the state-owned enterprise was not being managed properly.
He has also called for a parliamentary inquiry into the leadership of both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s handling of the country’s energy crisis.
He said that Parliament and the governing party must hold both Ramaphosa and Gordhan accountable for the problems at Eskom.
He said during his time at Eskom there was no load shedding because the system was properly managed.
“There is a certain thing called the energy availability factor (EAS). If you have 100MW and you are producing 80MW, it means your availability factor is 80%. The question is, what is the EAS of our Eskom fleet? The EAS of the Eskom fleet is 61%. To stop load shedding, 75% of our fleet has to be available. That is the reason we are having load shedding,” said Molefe.
“When I joined Eskom the EAS was 69% and we increased it to 81% and we stopped load shedding,” he said.
“Since the new crop came it has deteriorated. Last week there was a statement from Eskom that they need R11 billion for maintenance, but they have been given R6bn. However, the problem is not the fleet, but management and budgeting,” he said.
Molefe believes that the power utility was not honest with the public to cover for the alleged incompetence of its management.
“The reason we are load shedding at the moment is because the management is incompetent,” he said.
Molefe also questioned the use of renewable energy and maintained that coal and nuclear were still reliable baseload sources of energy.
He said that wind and solar energy were intermittent and were not helpful during load shedding.
“The sun is available during the day, and not at night. When there is cloud cover, solar energy does not contribute to the generation of electricity.
“The wind and solar technologies are still being developed, they are a work in progress and we cannot rely on them in a crisis such as we are experiencing at the moment, particularly because the storage of wind and solar energy and the scale that is required to deal with our problems at the moment is not available,” said Molefe.
Eskom’s impact on the country’s economy is expected to feature higher up when Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana delivers his Medium-Term Budget Policy statement on Thursday.