A SILHOUETTE of André de Ruyter, the new chief executive of state-owned power utility Eskom, at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Friday.     Reuters
A SILHOUETTE of André de Ruyter, the new chief executive of state-owned power utility Eskom, at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Friday. Reuters

WATCH: Eskom to recruit the right skills to end load shedding

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Feb 3, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Eskom has approached the market to recruit skilled and experienced personnel to boost its generation capacity as the power utility battles to keep the lights on with its ageing coal-fired power plants.

Eskom group chief executive André de Ruyter has set himself a target of 18 months to end the country's persistent load shedding and ramp-up the utility's maintenance programme, but to do this the power utility needs the right skills.

WATCH: 


Eskom chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer said on Friday that the utility had decided to complement and fill up vacant positions, especially critical vacancies like plant operators.

Oberholzer said Eskom had lost some skills and experience over the years as engineers had left the utility for greener pastures abroad.

He said the board had approved the management's request, lodged in May last year, to fill critical vacancies using external candidates.

“In the generation environment, it was just more than 2000 people to fill critical vacancies, and I can say that we are standing on 80percent that we filled those vacancies,” Oberholzer said. “However, we have been given a target not to exceed 10percent external, for various reasons, but now we have been given the go-ahead to responsibly go and have a look, where we cannot find and fill these critical vacancies, to go and find them external.”

State capture weakened Eskom, leaving a dearth of skilled and qualified engineers, technicians and other personnel with many top employees sidelined or targeted as a result.

The power utility this month brought back former senior project manager Avin Maharaj as project manager for the Kusile construction project.

Maharaj left Eskom in 2017 to take up a post with Redondo Peninsula Energy company in the Philippines.

The Kusile and Medupi new-build projects have been plagued by cost overruns and delays, and have not fully come into commercial operation since they started being built in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

According to Eskom, Kusile would be the fourth-largest power plant of its kind in the world, with installed capacity of 4800 megawatts.

The lack of skilled personnel has seen the utility recede from its once world's best power producer status to one associated with unplanned outages that are crippling the economy.

In 2002, Eskom won the prestigious international award at the Financial Times Global Energy Awards for exhibiting technical excellence in plant production, maintenance and operation, while demonstrating an ability to provide the world's lowest-cost electricity to its customers.

Newly appointed Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter said when Eskom was awarded the global utility of the year in 2002, it was run as three separate units. The reorganisation of the utility would see it run along similar lines.

De Ruyter said Eskom would enter into long-term partnerships with original equipment manufacturers in order to have the appropriate skills to improve the performance of its assets.

“Part of this effort is going to be an endeavour to address skills transfer, that we make sure that we don't remain dependent on these contractors, but that we build up our own skills base, and this with the particular focus on the operating and engineering disciplines,” De Ruyter said.

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