Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said there are “people issues at Eskom” which have nothing to do with the leadership but relate to job security.
Ramokgopa made these comments during a press conference on 6 April following his visits to 15 power stations in March.
The minister outlined plans to end load-shedding, which he is expected to present to Cabinet sometime this week.
Ramokgopa said that there are three solutions to load-shedding:
- Ramp up generation.
- Bring down demand artificially through load-shedding.
- Do both: Increase generation and reduce demand.
His preferred solution is third on the list, as this will alleviate some of the severity of load-shedding while limiting the stress on the grid.
Ramping up the generation and simultaneously reducing demand will allow Eskom to close the roughly 6,000MW supply-demand imbalance as quickly as possible.
Demand is expected to increase by 5,000MW to 37,000MW in winter from a summer peak of 32,000MW.
However, Ramokgopa clarified that the supply-demand imbalance is not the only problem at Eskom – “there are people issues there at Eskom”.
These issues have nothing to do with the leadership of Eskom, according to Ramokgopa, but are due to a lack of job security.
With Eskom’s ageing coal-powered fleet slowly being decommissioned, people are losing their jobs, and more jobs will be lost.
Eskom closed the dilapidated Komati plant last year and will close another 5 of its 14 remaining coal-fired plants by 2030.
Thus, people are not incentivised to apply themselves at Eskom, Ramokgopa lamented. “The people needed to run these plants do not see their future at Eskom.”
Coal fleet’s life to be extended
South Africa told rich countries backing its $8.5 billion energy transition deal that it wants to delay the closure of some units at its coal-fired power plants.
Connecting the renewable energy units envisaged under its Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) will take longer than expected.
With blackouts often exceeding 10 hours a day, the government is pressured to hold on to whatever generation capacity it has.
The government has not decided, and no formal request has been submitted to its JETP partners.
Given the power crisis and political constraints, Bloomberg sources said they would likely be pragmatic.
Unveiled at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, the JETP is meant to help South Africa end its dependence on coal and meet its target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Vikesh Rajpaul, who runs the Just Energy Transition office at Eskom, said life extensions are not being considered for the ageing plants. Still, some units may have to be kept open longer than planned to address the electricity crisis.
“There is an understanding and appreciation for our energy shortage,” he said.