Lights Out

Load shedding to get worse before it gets better – De Ruyter

By Chanel Retief 31 January 2020
Caption
(Photo: Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)

Eskom's recently appointed Chief Executive Officer, Andre de Ruyter has warned South Africans to brace for ongoing load shedding as the parastatal worked to bring stability to the system.

Chanel Retief

Best you get the firelighters and braai stand out – load shedding is expected to be implemented throughout the weekend and would likely continue into next week and beyond.

“We are extremely scrupulous when it comes to the imposition of load shedding,” Andre de Ruyter said at a briefing on Friday to update the country on the health of the Eskom generating system. “It’s not a decision we take lightly”.

Andre de Ruyter was appointed new Eskom CEO in November last year and began working at the parastatal earlier this month.

The recent round of load shedding began on Thursday 30 January with the power utility implementing Stage 2 load shedding. Initially due to be in place until Friday, the Eskom team announced that this would be extended to Monday 3 February.

This was due to a constrained power system and the depletion of the parastatal’s emergency diesel and water reserves. Emergency resources were “used extensively to supplement capacity over the past few days”. 

De Ruyter described the system as being “constrained, unreliable and unpredictable”.

“It (the power system) is prone to unplanned outages and breakdowns. It’s very regrettable for us to have to do this to South Africa,” De Ruyter said.

Since September 2019, Chief Operations Officer Jan Oberholzer said, the power system has been vulnerable and volatile with 21 days of load shedding experienced. On 9 December, the parastatal implemented Stage 6 load shedding for the first time.

“Our focus is on how we can fix the unpredictability,” Oberholzer said at Friday’s briefing.  

De Ruyter reiterated that achieving operation stability is a key priority, especially in maintaining the power system.

“We intend to return to the cycle of maintaining our plant as per the original manufacturer’s guideline,” De Ruyter said. “However, this will result in an increase in the probability of load shedding in the medium term as we fix the system.” 

De Ruyter added that as unfortunate as it was that load shedding would increase, it was necessary. 

“We are hitting the accelerator and not the brake of maintenance,” De Ruyter added, “but in a structured manner to ensure we manage the risks, and to ensure we follow the road map set out by the Department of Public Enterprises.”

In his State of the Nation Address in February 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke of Eskom’s unbundling. De Ruyter told the media that this is still a key priority for him to split Eskom into three entities: Transmission, Generation and Distribution. 

De Ruyter further added that boards will be appointed to these three entities soon. Once boards are appointed to Eskom’s three entities, De Ruyter says they’ll be run like businesses and will be responsible for full accountability.

“We will not be appointing any external people, we don’t want to add to costs,” De Ruyter said, adding that this “will put management in a far better position to get our arms around Eskom in ensuring there’s accountability”.

De Ruyter said he plans to restore trust back into Eskom by “addressing corruption”. 

Recently two former Eskom senior managers Abram Masango and France Hlakudi were arrested on charges of fraud and corruption amounting to R745 million at Kusile Power Station.   

The charges partly stem from alleged kickbacks of more than R30 million that Tubular Construction CEO Tony Trindade and the company’s former chairperson, Mike Lomas, funnelled to Masango and Hlakudi, Scorpio reported. 

“We are aware that any traces that have been left behind by corruption need to be weeded out. That is why we are accelerating forensic investigations” De Ruyter added, “But the message is clear, there is no room for corruption at Eskom”. DM

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