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Former Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer to stay on at the utility

Former Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer to stay on at the utility
Eskom's former chief operating officer, Jan Oberholzer, at a news conference to announce the company's full-year results in Johannesburg on 30 July 2019. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Former Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer will remain at the utility in a new role to oversee projects aimed at pulling South Africa out of a power crisis which is set to worsen as winter arrives and demand for electricity increases.

It is understood that Oberholzer, who retired on 30 April 2023, has signed a contract to stay on, but not in his former capacity of COO, which carried the responsibility of overseeing all Eskom’s operations within generation, transmission and distribution. 

His appointment comes at a crucial time for the country, with the intensity of rolling blackouts in the coming months likely to deepen to levels not seen before, due mainly to long-term outages at Koeberg, Eskom’s nuclear power plant, as well as Medupi and Kusile, it’s two newest and biggest coal-fired power stations.

In an exclusive interview with EE Business Intelligence last month, Oberholzer said that 2023 would continue to be a difficult year in terms of power outages, but work was on schedule to address the problems at all three plants, and to extend the operating licence of Koeberg for another 20 years.

But he also warned that near-term targets to raise the utility’s overall energy availability factor (EAF) – which measures the availability of all the units in the Eskom fleet to produce electricity over a certain period – were likely to be missed.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Outgoing Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer supports coal plant life extension, but doubts energy availability target

This was largely due to repair work being undertaken on Kusile units 1, 2, 3 and 5, Medupi unit 4, and the life-extension, maintenance and refuelling work on Koeberg units 1 and 2, which have together removed the equivalent of nearly 5,000MW of generation capacity from the grid – the equivalent of four to five stages of load shedding.

Missed targets

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom board chairperson Mpho Makwana have EAF targets of 60%, 65% and 70% for Eskom’s 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 financial years respectively.

However, the EAF achieved for the FY 2022/23 year ending 31 March 2023 was down to 56.56%, significantly missing the 60% EAF target set, while the week-on-week EAF in the last week of April 2023 dropped to 54.11%.

Oberholzer believes the EAF targets are unrealistic, given the long-term outages, as well as the current unreliability of Eskom’s other ageing coal-fired plants. 

Oberholzer has said he supports the controversial idea mooted by Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa of extending the life of some of the units in Eskom’s oldest coal-fired power plants – provided it makes economic sense and can be done responsibly and legally. DM

First published by EE Business Intelligence.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    We are most fortunate to have men if his stature on the programme. Thank you Mr Oberholzer

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    No personalised mug for you Mr Oberholtzer…remember De Ruyter warning!

    • Stuart Woodhead says:

      Well done Mr Oberholzer for agreeing to stay on at Escom to oversee mainly repair and maintenance issues and, hopefully, to ensure that proper controls are in place to reduce the sabotage, stealing and corruption which affects every single South African on a daily basis.

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