All talk and no action at Eskom

Energy expert Hilton Trollip said Eskom is like a slow train crash without a coherent plan from the government to improve power plant performance or address load-shedding.

Trollip is an independent energy research consultant and a research fellow in the Global Risk Governance programme at the University of Cape Town.

He spoke to ENCA about the powers of energy minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa and how it integrates with those of energy minister Gwede Mantashe.

Media reports suggest that a war is brewing between Ramokgopa on the one side and Mantashe and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan on the other.

A particularly sensitive issue is Ramokgopa’s proposal to extend the life of South Africa’s coal fleets and to delay the decommissioning of stations to boost energy generation.

The Mail & Guardian reported that Mantashe and Gordhan dismissively told the electricity minister to take the proposal to the National Energy Crisis Committee (Necom).

While the political power battle around Eskom unfolds, South Africa is experiencing the worst load-shedding ever.

Trollip said that when people look at what is being done, apart from lots of talking, it is “nothing”.

Energy expert Hilton Trollip

He said that Ramokgopa’s plans to fix Eskom and end load-shedding are rehashed, and he lacks the executive powers to execute them.

“This plan can’t and won’t work. The electricity minister took this plan to the cabinet yesterday, and they said, well, ‘come back later’. So, it’s just talk, talk, talk,” Trollip said.

He said the country has the Electricity Regulation Act, which gives the energy minister extensive powers.

Ramokgopa’s executive powers are not clearly defined, and this is leading to tensions among the three executives currently in charge of handling Eskom and its various crises.

Trollip added that regardless of who’s in charge, people need to do something in the physical world, and nothing is happening.

He said the energy availability factor of Eskom’s 80 big generators would just continue to deteriorate as they get older and as Eskom, which is under pressure, struggles to maintain them.

“That’s unfortunately not news these days. It’s been normalised that we’re on stages 4 to 6 and that it’s probably going to get worse. You can’t make news of a very slow train crash,” he said.


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