South Africa’s current energy supply challenges are as a result of aging power plants and maintenance that has been deteriorating due to a lack of maintenance expenditure.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan made this bold statement during an Eskom briefing conducted alongside Eskom’s board chairman Jabu Mabuza as well as Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe on Tuesday.
For weeks now South Africans have been experiencing rolling blackouts, which the power utility blames on shortage of capacity among other given reasons. Read more: POWER ALERT: Eskom continues with loadshedding
Gordhan said: “This is a difficult time. Many people are frustrated because of the uncertainty around what is happening. We fully understand the frustration.”
He added: “We apologise for the burden that we are placing on South Africans at this point in time; [also] to the businesses – small and big – that are working under difficult circumstances in the current economic climate.”
Responding to questions of how long loadshedding will last, Gordhan said, “At this point in time, we are still trying to get a better grasp of the technical problems and other problems that the power stations are confronting.
“That is why there’s the Eskom presidential task team that was created in January. Eskom board and management are developing a turnaround strategy and a nine-point operational plan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mabuza underlined that Eskom’s problems are financial, structural and operational.
“We have tried to do what we call a clean-up. What is clear now is that there is money stolen. This is clear,” he stated.
However, the bad news he said is that it is “clear looking at the financials that there has been no maintenance. The expenditure on maintenance was getting less and less until 2018. The question is how was money being spent? That is a matter for law enforcement”.
According to Hadebe, the power utility will invest R50 billion in maintenance of power stations, over the next five years.
“Over the next five years, R50 billion has been set aside. That will not only be dealing with generation because that’s what we’ve been concentrating on, but we’ve taken a decision that if we don’t deal with transmission and distribution, we’ll be facing the same challenges we are with generation.
“Going forward, we are to make sure that distribution and transmission are maintained,” Hadebe concluded.