Former Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer warned that South Africa does not have a plan to avoid future load-shedding.
The government was first warned that South Africa would face an electricity shortage in December 1998 by the Department of Minerals and Energy.
In a document titled, White Paper on the Energy Policy of the Republic of South Africa, the department warned that Eskom’s generation capacity would be fully utilised by 2007.
The government did not follow the department’s advice to increase Eskom’s generation capacity, and the result was predictable.
In 2007, South Africa’s electricity demand exceeded supply for the first time, and Eskom was forced to implement load-shedding to prevent a national blackout.
One would have expected the government to learn from its mistakes, but not much has changed fifteen years after the first blackouts hit the country.
Oberholzer told Biznews’ Alec Hogg that South Africa still lacks a comprehensive plan to prevent load-shedding.
“South Africa’s failure to develop a plan to avoid future load-shedding is concerning,” he said.
It’s essential for policymakers to accurately predict demand in the short-term and long-term, from the next three months to 50 years ahead.
“Understanding the future demand profile and how technological innovations will shape industries is crucial for planning,” he said.
“Without a clear understanding of future needs, it’s impossible to determine the necessary infrastructure requirements.”
Eskom has around 14 coal-fired power plants with an average age of 44 years. Apart from the ageing generation fleets, the plants have also not been adequately maintained.
“Within the next 12 to 15 years, those producing approximately 20,000 megawatts will reach the end of their operational life,” Oberholzer said.
“To plan for the future, we need to assess our current assets in the context of future demand. It’s not good enough for policymakers to dismiss the issue and claim there is no problem.”
“We need a comprehensive understanding of our infrastructure needs, considering factors such as gas, batteries, and other emerging technologies. Unfortunately, this is still lacking in our country.”
Oberholzer urged the government and Eskom to acknowledge their mistakes and for shareholders and policymakers to take responsibility for their choices.
“Without proper planning and a clear understanding of the future, we cannot ensure a stable energy supply for our country,” he said.
“We need a collective effort and a commitment to developing a comprehensive plan to address these challenges.”