Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said he was “hamstrung by the limitations of a failing state” in his failed bid to reduce load-shedding, while also lamenting the historical mismanagement of Eskom.
De Ruyter judged his performance as Eskom’s CEO in the final chapter of his new book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom.
“I fully understand why many might brand my term a failure,” De Ruyter said, with record levels of load-shedding in South Africa. In hindsight, “promising to end load-shedding was one of my biggest mistakes”.
De Ruyter places the blame for his failure to reduce load-shedding on previous Eskom executives and serving government ministers.
Referring to Gwede Mantashe’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, De Ruyter said, “With teammates like that, it is little wonder that we fell behind on the scoreboard.”
According to De Ruyter, “the seeds of the power utility’s destruction were already being sowed in the early 2000s”, the costs of poor decisions were deferred and “we are now paying the bill”.
Previously, De Ruyter said he would not be blamed for a “ship that has been mismanaged over the past 15 years”.
Eskom’s power stations had been run “with the proverbial rev counter in the red”, which produced a good short-term performance with disastrous long-term effects.
De Ruyter was “seized with stabilising our existing fleet of power stations, regularly attending operational meetings at 05:00”.
According to him, operations at Eskom had begun to show signs of recovery when he resigned with discipline, “returning to the power station floor”.
He claims he “made good headway in restoring the Eskom culture of excellence”. However, the data indicates otherwise, with Eskom’s performance deteriorating markedly during his tenure.
Load-shedding increased significantly during De Ruyter’s tenure at the power utility and hit a new record in 2022.
This was coupled with a sharp decline in the Eskom fleet’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF), which plummeted from 61% in 2020 to 53% at the time of his resignation.
Some argue this is because of the increased maintenance Eskom conducted under De Ruyter. However, this is not supported by the data.
Maintenance during his tenure stayed at Eskom’s long-term average of 10% of generation capacity. Moreover, only 70% of maintenance was done on schedule during his time as CEO.
Ultimately, the decrease in EAF was not due to increased maintenance.
Load-shedding under different Eskom CEOs
De Ruyter also continued the history of Eskom’s coal fleet being run hard with an average Energy Utilisation Factor of 90%, above the international benchmark of 75%.
However, if De Ruyter had not run Eskom’s plants as hard as he did, load-shedding would have likely been significantly worse.
To his credit, De Ruyter also publicly admitted the severe lack of skills among Eskom’s workforce, with 19,000 skilled workers leaving the utility from 2013 to 2022.
His maintenance program was hobbled by the inability of the workforce to conduct quality maintenance.