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Eskom leadership finally finds its mojo

Eskom’s Komati Power Station. Photo: GCIS

Eskom’s Komati Power Station. Photo: GCIS

Published Aug 2, 2023


The leadership we have in energy and Eskom (right now) is quite all right.

There is now a newly found vision and focused sense of purpose to revitalise and prioritize Eskom's power stations.

Of course this is primarily due to the pressure exerted on Eskom and the government to fix the load shedding crisis. Eskom was in a state of near collapse.

For now the situation is improving steadily, but it isn’t yet time to celebrate.

Eskom has not yet ended load shedding. We will only celebrate that milestone once at least a 10% reserve margin capacity goal has been achieved. For now we have to hold the government to account for its role in mismanaging Eskom.

How could the leadership allow a giant electricity company like Eskom to reach such a level of failures, to the extent of running more than 19000 MW of unplanned breakdown and units offline?

Thank God for the new leadership in Energy starting with Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the chairperson of Eskom, Mpho Makwana, and the board together with the interim executives at Eskom.

The maintenance, repairs and refurbishment program plan is now aggressively underway.

When Ramokgopa visited Dhuva Eskom power station, Mpumalanga, on his first week of the job as Electricity Minister, the plant was one of Eskom’s worst performing plants at the time. Its performance was at mediocre level and state pushing just around 17% EAF (energy availability factor).

This has changed. A week ago or so the manager of Dhuva, in a congratulatory note to Dhuva power station employees, said, "Today as we speak we are running as the 2nd best station in the Eskom fleet, Dhuva peaking at an 81.9% EAF generation output capacity."

This was all possible thanks to the employees of Dhuva and its management working together to turnaround Dhuva. The Dhuva team also had the executive support from Eskom’s head of generation, Bheki Nxumalo, who is driving the renewal strategy for Eskom generation division.

This as implementing the wrong policies continues to haunt SA.

Of late Ramokgopa has been criticized for stating the obvious facts in relation to load shedding and the energy crisis that SA faces.

In a statement recently, he said, “If I had my way I will go and restart the units at Komati. We closed the power station, which was the best performing power station at the time that we closed it. And because someone gave us money and said decarbonise, to replace it with 271 MW of intermittent energy, we removed 1000 MW.

End of life

Some say the Komati coal power station had reached its end of life. But we all know that the term end of life in a thermal power plant is a technical term.

Coal power stations' lifespans around the world are continuously extended. The technical term used and generally referred to as "end of life" means that, according to the power plants engineering specifications it indicates the number of years the power plant can be operated. The power plant "end of life" years can be extended or ended at a set specified date.

The global trend has shown that many power plants "end of life of plant" easily get extended in accordance with the country's energy generation plan. In a crunch period during energy global crisis periods most countries usually opts to re-operate mothballed power plants that have reached their "end of life" to avert a crisis.

So extending the "life of a plant" for a power plant has many benefits. Megawatts added to an energy grid easily accounted for the contribution towards the gross domestic product of the economy.

And due to the displaced jobs in Komati the hawkers have been affected, small jobs and Komati is like a ghost town.

On average 1000 MW of electricity from a power station adds about R132 billion to the economy every year. So is it strategic to shut down a 1000 MW coal power station and mothball it? And to continue by clearing the entire site and converting the mothballed plant site into a solar and battery storage alternative energy plant?

No. I argue that it is not a wise decision in a policy making environment. It shaves off a whopping R132bn off the economy a year.

EFF’s energy voice

The EFF remains the most vocal politically active party in South Africa (SA) on issues and matters of energy. Without their critical voice, the energy debates in parliament and SA in general would have degraded to shallow levels.

These are the key takeaway notes from a part of the speech delivered by EFF President Julius Malema, celebrating the 10th year anniversary of the EFF, at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg:

"Eskom ke mathata, they made us fools and gave us Stage 6 and Stage 8 and we were living in darkness. The jobs were threatened, the electricity undermined the quality of life in SA. From Stage 8 they dropped us to Stage 3, when they put us on stage, we behaved like Stage 3 is acceptable, that's mediocrity. We don't want load shedding in South Africa. We want reliable electricity in South Africa. We want electricity that will be supplied to hospitals uninterrupted, to schools uninterrupted, to business uninterrupted.

"We are not opposed to just transition, but we are not going to close our coal power stations, until just transition produces equivalent megawatts to the same power stations you want us to close. We are not going to sell our coal to anyone, if you say we can't use coal, why do you take it and use it in your countries. No one must take coal from South Africa if they can't allow us to use coal,“ he said.

The EFF spoke to all the common issues facing South Africans.

SA’s sovereign path

It has taken almost a 100 years for African countries to achieve total freedom. We all thought that the end of colonisation would usher in an era of sovereignty for all former colonial African states. But that hasn't been the case. African countries continue to be dictated at all levels of their governance by former colonial and imperial states. Africa is not as yet free to chart its own sovereign path and destiny.

The energy policies forced on SA clearly demonstrates this very fact that African countries are still undermined by their European and American counterparts.

The systematic closure and shutdown of power stations, such as Komati, through foreign interventions is a cause for concern. There is direct interference in the energy space by foreign interests.

South Africa has an energy policy plan, but the plan is forever undermined by foreign dictates and policy interventions without following a democratic rule processes.

It was economic suicide to end the Komati power station’s life of plant. The loss of that additional generation capacity has not only been seen in increased load shedding, but it further takes away vital monetary value to the economy.

South Africa needs to be strategic to get out of this power crisis and carry on using its newly found voice.

Crown Prince Adil Nchabeleng is President of Transform RSA and an Independent Energy Expert.

* The views expressed by the columnist are held independently of Business Report and Independent Media.