Cape Town - Power utility Eskom CEO André de Ruyter told parliamentarians on Wednesday that the latest instalment of Stage 2 load shedding starting on Wednesday until Saturday was regrettable.
“A number of members have commented on Stage 2 load shedding. This is of course very regrettable, and again from Eskom's perspective we would like to apologise for implementing Stage 2 load shedding,” De Ruyter said.
He made the statement when responding to questions on when the entity would be presenting its annual audit and audit report to the public enterprises portfolio committee.
De Ruyter joined the meeting later after first holding a media briefing on the planned load shedding.
He told MPs that load shedding was a deliberate intervention by the systems operators to curtail demand on equity and rotational basis to ensure total system blackout was avoided.
De Ruyter said Eskom has contingency plans in place for total system blackout.
“We will require six to 14 days to restore electricity countrywide. This is something we want to avoid at all costs.”
He also said when generation capacity was constrained because of trip failures, they were forced in accordance with long-established practice to implement load shedding, to prevent far more negative outcomes of blackouts.
The CEO also said the terminology could strike out as semantic, but it was a different phenomenon.
MPs had raised concerns around communication by Eskom to advise the public when load shedding was to be implemented.
In recent times, the entity has been notifying the public at short notice and it had been worse in the period leading to the local government elections on November 1.
De Ruyter said they have tried to improve communication on their part.
“This is something we try to do proactively. We are trying to give as much advance warning as possible.”
However, he said the breakdowns tended to be unreliable and unpredictable and that made it difficult to provide precise time and dates.
“We try to be transparent and be open as much as possible to ensure the South African public is fully informed to enable them to make alternative plans.
“We understand this is an inconvenient and disrupting issue. We are fully cognisant about the major impact it has not only on the economy but on our daily lives, in particular matriculants writing exams.”
Echoing sentiments expressed by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan earlier, De Ruyter said the solution to load shedding was to accelerate the immediate procurement of additional capacity of energy supply to between 4 000 and 6 000 megawatts.
He also told MPs that Eskom was unable to buy electricity on its own accord, but the procurement process was driven by the Independent Power Producer office that reports to the Department of Mineral Resources.
“The IPP office drives the competitive bidding process in terms of windows awarded and presented to Eskom for approval by the board.”
De Ruyter said they were grateful that the IPP office recently identified preferred bidders for bid windows to bring an estimated 2 600MW on the grid.
“It is clear that number is insufficient to address the total electricity shortfall and therefore we are of the view more capacity is required.
“We anticipate that the lifting of the licensing restriction from one to 1 000 megawatts will enable more capacity to be brought to the grid sooner rather than later,” he said.
De Ruyter noted that the explosion at Medupi last year had played a significant role in the current load shedding with loss of 720MW that would take 18 to 24 months to recover.
He said they had received a preliminary investigation into the explosion and were in the process of identifying whether there was negligence or malicious intent.
“If there was, we need to bring individuals to book for their actions or inactions,” De Ruyter said.