The four men who stopped load-shedding in South Africa

Four men have helped to stop load-shedding for three months by improving Eskom’s performance – Mteto Nyati, Bheki Nxumalo, Calib Cassim, and Dan Marokane.

On Friday, Eskom announced that load-shedding continues to be suspended until further notice.

Load-shedding has been suspended for 86 consecutive days, the longest period in three years. The last time it happened was between 23 July 2021 and 06 October 2021.

The load-shedding reprieve was due to the ongoing focus on maintaining the gains made in the reliability and stability of the generation coal fleet.

“Our generation’s performance continues to surpass this year’s winter forecast. The current unplanned outages remain at an average of 12,000 MW,” Eskom said.

The Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (UCLF) decreased to 27.4% in the financial year to date, a reduction from 35.3% recorded in the same period last year.

This reduction in UCLF represents a 7.9% improvement in the current financial year compared to the previous year in the same period.

Eskom’s year-to-date energy availability factor (EAF) increased to 61.2%, a significant 7% improvement compared to the same period last year.

The weekly EAF has moved from 57.0% at the beginning of the financial year to 62.2% from 17 June to 20 June 2024.

“The EAF improvement is primarily due to a drop in the unplanned outages of the generation units, averaging 11,800 MW during the past seven days,” Eskom said.

With colder weather hitting South Africa in recent weeks, Eskom strategically used Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) to meet peak demand.

From 1 April 2024 to 20 June 2024, Eskom spent R2.71 billion on OCGTs, producing 390 GWh to meet demand.

This is about 67% less than the R8.26 billion spent from 1 April 2023 to 20 June 2023 to produce 1,354 GWh.

Eskom chairperson Mteto Nyati said the uninterrupted power supply was due to leadership changes, a maintenance plan, and its execution.

Nyati said changes to Eskom’s management team, particularly the appointment of Bheki Nxumalo as the utility’s Generation Executive, have transformed the company.

Since his appointment, Nxumalo has reviewed Eskom’s plant managers and other senior employees at its power stations.

This has resulted in extensive changes to the leadership at some of the utility’s worst-performing power stations.

Another big change was implementing a comprehensive maintenance plan targeting Eskom’s worst-performing power stations.

The plan was developed with management, presented to the Eskom board, and approved in March 2023. It focussed on accelerating and executing planned maintenance.

Eskom partnered with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with deep expertise in the equipment used at the power plants.

The third component was executing Eskom’s ambitious Generation Recovery Plan precisely and efficiently.

Nyati said that maintenance, in partnership with OEMs, ensured that generating units returned to service were reliable and would not break down quickly.

“Eskom has conducted more maintenance in the last year than in the previous three years. This is why we are where we are now,” he said.

Apart from Nyati and Nxumalo, two other men—former acting CEO Calib Cassim and new CEO Dan Marokane—played a crucial role in ensuring the strategy worked.

Here is a look at the four men who are behind Eskom’s incredible improvement which helped to stop load-shedding for three months.

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati has been instrumental in improving Eskom’s performance since his appointment on 1 November 2023.

His appointment as Eskom chairman was widely welcomed because he was an engineer with extensive business experience.

After he became chairman, he visited power stations, spoke to managers, and created a comprehensive turnaround plan.

The results of this turnaround plan, implemented in March 2023, is now showing in Eskom’s performance.

Eskom generation executive Bheki Nxumalo

Eskom generation executive Bheki Nxumalo

Bheki Nxumalo was appointed Eskom’s group executive for generation in April 2023. He has extensive experience in operations, power station management, and production.

Before this role, he was Eskom Enterprise and Eskom Rotek Industries CEO and served as station manager at two power plants.

Less than a year after he was appointed, Eskom saw a significant performance improvement and a prolonged break in load-shedding.

Nyati singled out Nxumalo as the main person helping to address Eskom’s generation challenges and stop load-shedding.

Former Eskom acting CEO Calib Cassim

Former Eskom acting CEO Calib Cassim

An unsung hero in Eskom’s performance is Calib Cassim, appointed interim chief executive after Andre de Ruyter’s sudden departure in early 2023.

Under his leadership, Eskom stabilised its declining energy availability factor and started to improve towards the end of his tenure. It was the first improvement in five years.

South Africa got through the 2023 winter months better than expected, with lower-than-planned demand and improved generating capacity.

When he handed the reins to Dan Marokane, the power utility was on an upward trajectory thanks to the implementation of the recovery plan.

Eskom CEO Dan Marokane

Eskom CEO Dan Marokane

Eskom’s performance under new chief executive Dan Marokane has improved dramatically, with fewer breakdowns and a much higher energy availability factor.

Marokane, a qualified chemical and petroleum engineer who previously served as a group executive at the power utility, took over on 1 March 2024.

He continued the good work under Cassim’s leadership. Breakdowns are lower, maintenance has improved, and Eskom’s EAF is rising rapidly.

He said Eskom plans to increase its energy availability factor (EAF) to 70% in the next 12 to 36 months.

“We will also future-proof the organisation to enable energy security, growth, and long-term sustainability for South Africa,” he said.


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