Eskom frontiers breached by saboteurs, says Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter
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The gloves are off between Eskom and its saboteurs as CEO Andre de Ruyter presented evidence of glaring sabotage on its infrastructure indicating the intention to plunge systems into extended load shedding that could go beyond stage 6.
“We are calling it for what it is, this is the clearest indication that there are people who are determined to damage the economy through the sabotage of Eskom infrastructure. The consequences of this are significant, if we had lost power supply to Lethabo power station, we would have lost 3 600 megawatts of electricity and that would have gone beyond stage six of load shedding,“ de Ruyter said at the state of the system address on Friday.
The most clear indication of rats-in-the-kitchen Eskom made was on Thursday when De Ruyter said Eskom was battling more than system failures but deliberate internal and external forces that understood its systems enough for guerilla warfare to bring the utility to its knees.
De Ruyter said it was disappointing that there were elements determined to interrupt electricity supplies, challenging as it was to keep the systems going, with the peripheral danger of total blackout always looming.
He was tight-lipped on the security measures Eskom was taking to protect its over 390km of cable network, dismissing the effect of CCTV cameras and budgetary deviations, but confirmed that drone technology and added boots on the ground had been deployed, along with trust in local enforcement agencies, including the Directorate of Priority Crimes (Hawks), trawling the ground for clues on the saboteurs.
On Thursday, De Ruyter let slip that people who were cut off from the lucrative Eskom tenders and those whose unethically obtained wealth had been forfeited were unhappy with the power utility.
Eskom is currently battling to keep the lights on with planned outages of 3 345MW, unplanned outages of 4 756MW, total outages of 9 756MW while the total unplanned outages were at 14 776MW with peak demand at 26 747MW.
The utility has suspended stage 2 load shedding, and implemented stage 1 load shedding from 5am to 9pm on Friday.
“Load shedding will be lifted. There are no plans for load shedding in the week, there are warmer temperatures and provided there are system losses or failures we should be able to carry the load,” De Ruyter said.
Its various generation plants – Matimba, Thuthuka, Majuba, Kriel, Camden and Lethabo – are all at intermittent states of readiness or breakdown.
The biggest concern, De Ruyter pointed out, was the escalating acts of sabotage on its internal systems and distribution lines carried out by people clearly familiar with these systems.
“Nothing was stolen, no scrap metal to sell or copper cables cut off, this raises the suspicion that these are economic crimes, acts of sabotage,” he said.
He would not be drawn to comment on the budget to combat the latest malady except to say Eskom's trust had been placed in law enforcement agencies as well as the engagement of technology, including drones, to safeguard its assets and systems.
In terms of the additional power of 3 000 to 4600kW needed on the grid to give the utility leg room for maintenance, De Ruyter said Eskom had fulfilled all its obligations and awaited a thumbs-up from the Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) and the Department of Minerals and Energy (DMRE) to untangle the bureaucratic red tape.
The earliest indication these may move is the March 2022 end of financial year.
“We are in full compliance with whatever is required of us. I cannot speak for the DMRE or the IPP (Independent Power Producer) office. Grid access and capability are not the issue right now,” De Ruyter said.