President Cyril Ramaphosa says load shedding, which has disrupted daily life for millions of South Africans, will be around for some time to come.
Ramaphosa was answering questions from members of Parliament (MPs) in a plenary sitting on Thursday.
“The recent load shedding which has disrupted daily life for millions of South Africans and which has also caused great damage to our economy is in many ways stark reminder of the severe challenges our electricity system faces,” said Ramaphosa.
He said although there were challenges in keeping the lights on, the power utility was hard at work trying to fix the problem.
“Load shedding will remain a possibility for some time to come. But we are not simply waiting for the inevitable.
“[We are] working hard to fix this problem as Eskom implemented a generating plan to minimise load shedding, fundamentally changing the trajectory of electricity and energy of our country.
He said load shedding was always the last resort for the power utility
“Where demand is greater than what can be produced by the system… [It’s] necessary to prevent collapse of [the] power grid and complete blackout.”
Ramaphosa also lamented the the ageing of power stations and the impact of state capture as a cause of the failure in power supply.
“At its core, load shedding is inevitable and it has consequences of the age of many of Eskom’s power plants, and many of us will know a number of them are up to 60 years [old].
“This has affected the inability of our power generation company on a number of fronts. Some reasons – age of fleet, debt, lack of capacity, state capture.
“Eskom has to undertaken fundamental maintenance necessary to improve reliability of electricity supply,” he said.
Eskom CEO André de Ruyter last Friday briefed the nation on the power utility’s current challenges, issuing a grave warning about the possibility of stage 6 load shedding.
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De Ruyter explained the recent round of load shedding was a result of a deliberate acts of sabotage, and said it could have been much worse.
Sabotage has been confirmed at the Lethabo Power Station in Free State, with lines supplying electricity to the station’s coal conveyor being cut.
“There is malice afoot and we need to take action. This is not only a challenge for Eskom. State security agencies and law enforcement have a role to play as well.”
De Ruyter said he couldn’t speculate as to whether the acts of sabotage were being carried out in an attempt to discredit him and his team, in order make it hard for them to solve Eskom’s challenges.
Ramaphosa said Eskom was currently being restructured into three subsidiaries – transmission, generation and distribution.
He said the legal separation of the transmission entity was planned for 31 December, with the other two being scheduled for next year.
“[The] Electricity Regulation Act and electricity pricing policy are being amended to reflect restructuring, transform the sector, enable greater competition and investment in new generation capacity,” he explained.
“Eight preferred bidders have been appointed for [the] 2,000MW IPPP [independent power producer programme] mitigation programme. 25 preferred bidders in MIPPP [municipal independent power producers programme]. 2,600MW of wind, solar, photovoltaic electricity [is] expected to be added to the grid.
He said 1,600MW was connected to the grid back in June this year, and that over 400MW would be connected by the end of the year.
Ramaphosa said the power utility still faced many challenges ahead in addressing the reliable supply of electricity.
- Management of Eskom’s debt
- Overcoming skills deficit within the company
- Improving municipal revenue collection
- Improving Eskom maintenance capabilities
- Addressing procurement challenges
- Rooting out all forms of corruption and criminality.
He said this was not an easy task for government and ensured that the process would be inclusive.
“No easy solutions. This is a complex problem.
“But we have a roadmap and are determined to persevere until we’ve achieved energy security in this country. We have now ensured that energy generation will not come from one source only.”