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Former Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer lands top renewable energy role

Former Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer lands top renewable energy role
Former Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Ex-Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer is joining Mulilo Energy as chairperson. The company already generates 400MW of wind and solar utility-scale projects in South Africa.

Two months after quitting as chief operating officer (COO) of Eskom, Jan Oberholzer has landed a top role. He is joining Mulilo Energy as chairperson. Mulilo is one of the winners in the race to new energy sources.

The company, majority-owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, already generates 400MW of wind and solar utility-scale projects in South Africa.

The government’s lifting of the licensing cap on its own and private energy producers has unleashed Mulilo’s future capacity. The company says it has a 25GW wind, solar and battery project in the pipeline.  Put another way, that is enough power to prevent 25 stages of load shedding. 

Oberholzer quit Eskom in July when he asked acting CEO Calib Cassim to cut him loose from his project management role at Koeberg and Kusile power stations. Eskom has since mothballed the position of COO, and its appointment of a CEO has been delayed in Cabinet.

Eskom’s former CEO, André de Ruyter, is now a senior visiting Fellow at Yale University in the US, where he will lecture on energy transitions. De Ruyter resigned from Eskom in December and left after a burn-the-house-down interview with journalist Annika Larsen on eNCA in February 2023. He alleged that Eskom was in the grip of cartels that led to the highest levels of the government. He also alleged that Cabinet members knew the cartels and their political links.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Introducing the four crime cartels that have brought Eskom and South Africa to their knees

Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners says it is the world’s largest funder of greenfield renewable investments; it manages 11 funds and has a book of €25-billion (R513-billion) for energy and related renewable infrastructure investments.

Oberholzer was a long-time transmission executive with Eskom. He has expertise in what he calls “the wires” side of the business. South Africa has a healthy pipeline of power from independent producers coming to market, notably solar and wind.

Energy entrepreneurs are rapidly finding innovative means of storing the energy to be used as a baseload. Companies like Mulilo will need the expertise of executives like Oberholzer who know how to negotiate for national grid slots and can assist with nodes where grid expansion must quickly be planned to bring new power on stream.

South Africa is currently on Stage 6 load shedding. Victoria O’Regan explains it here. DM


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