The government, not Eskom, is to blame for South Africa’s continued load-shedding, as it has failed to procure new electricity generation capacity efficiently.
This is feedback from research fellow in energy at the University of Cape Town’s Global Risk Governance Programme Hilton Trollip.
Trollip told the SABC that the government has shifted the blame for South Africa’s continued load-shedding onto Eskom as it is politically convenient.
“Unfortunately, the government has shifted the blame for load-shedding onto Eskom because it is what brings you power, but it is not the utility that determines energy policy,” Trollip said.
Through the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), the government determines the procurement of new generation capacity for the country.
“It is at the stage of procurement that the failure is happening. In an election year, we hear, ‘It is Eskom, Eskom, Eskom,’ but if you look at the history of it, you will understand the government’s failure to procure new power,” he said.
This is not the first time Trollip has placed the blame for South Africa’s load-shedding crisis squarely on the government.
He has previously said the repeated delays to the unbundling of Eskom, beginning 23 years ago, are due to political reasons.
Trollip’s comments echo those of energy analyst Chris Yelland, who said the ANC government unveiled its plan for South Africa’s electricity market 25 years ago, but very little has happened to implement it.
Yelland referred to the Department of Minerals and Energy White Paper on the Energy Policy of the Republic of South Africa, published in 1998.
It provided a background to South Africa’s energy sector, key policy challenges, and the government’s proposed policies.
It also provided details about the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation to meet the country’s electricity needs.
The White Paper famously warned that unless the government acted, Eskom’s generation capacity surplus would be fully utilised by about 2007.
The government did not act, and by 2007, the electricity demand exceeded supply, forcing Eskom to implement load-shedding to prevent a national blackout.
Despite promising drastic action, the government failed to address South Africa’s electricity problems, and the situation deteriorated significantly since 2007.
In 2023, south Africa experienced more load-shedding than ever before, with stage 6 power cuts occurring regularly.
Speaking to Newzroom Africa, Yelland said the white paper highlighted the need to unbundle Eskom, create an electricity market, and add more generation capacity to the grid.
It further suggested that the private sector plays a significant role in South Africa’s electricity supply industry.
“It is 25 years later, and we are still talking about the same things, including Eskom’s unbundling, an electricity market, and the private sector’s involvement in generation,” he said.
“The government has failed to implement its own policies over the last 25 years. It failed to do what the white paper said.”
He added that even when the government decided to add new generation capacity through the Medupi and Kusile power stations, it was marred by delays.
“These power stations are still not completed, and there have been tremendous cost overruns,” Yelland said.
These failings resulted in the electricity crisis the country is experiencing, which is why the government can be blamed for load-shedding.