Delegates at a civil society-organised conference on the country’s electricity crisis on Wednesday bombarded three Eskom representatives with questions.
Here are 10 of the questions posed to general manager of customer services Marion Hughes, member of Cabinet’s “war room” Malcolm Simpson, and operations and maintenance manager Daphne Mokwena:
1. Can Eskom supply electricity directly to residents in areas where municipalities are in arrears?
“No, because of licence agreements between energy regulator Nersa and municipalities” – Hughes.
2. Does Eskom provide cheaper electricity to apartheid-era veterans and the previously disadvantaged?
“At this point there is are no institutionalised tariffs for veterans” – Hughes.
3. Who runs Eskom, Cabinet’s ‘war room’ or Eskom?
“Eskom’s executive committee, lead by acting CEO Brian Molefe. The ‘war room’ looks at the country’s energy situation as a whole” – Hughes.
4. What has happened with the solar geyser programme?
“It was taken over by the energy department and would start up again soon” – Hughes
5. Will Eskom get the gas it wants to use to replace its diesel from fracking?
“We are not really focused on fracking as that has a long way to go if it is to be a resource, to ensure the environment is not damaged. We are looking at the international markets to bring in gas” – Simpson.
6. Were the two executives recently suspended given golden handshakes?
“No” – Simpson
7. A woman from Khayelitsha, Cape Town, complained that she twice went to buy electricity for R20, but each time she got a different amount of kWh. Why?
Hughes explained this was due to “inclining block tariffs”. Eskom had two such “blocks”. For municipal customers it was different. In Eskom’s case the customer paid one tariff for the first 600kWh. Above that a different tariff applied.
“It’s to protect the poor. So that those who use less kWh pay less. It’s also intended to give a signal to use less electricity” – Hughes.
8. Why can’t Eskom warn households of looming power cuts the way they do big users?
“A factory had a dedicated power supply. However there were about 80 to 100 domestic users to one transformer, so it could not be done” – Hughes
9. Who controls load shedding?
“There is a ‘national control’ within Eskom that keeps an eye on supply and demand and makes this decision” – Hughes.
10. Are the prepaid split-meters being installed only in Soweto?
“It was being implemented across the country. Parts of Limpopo had them, as did Ekurhuleni in Gauteng. Sandton and Midrand would also get the meters” – Hughes.
Mokoena said they had “trained learners” going door-to-door in Soweto explaining to residents how the meters worked. In some cases people had not been at home, so they needed to go back there and give residents the “necessary education”.
Eskom on a roll
It’s almost a week since Eskom last implemented load shedding, in keeping with the supplier’s aim for load shedding-free June.
On Wednesday Eskom said no load shedding was anticipated for in the evening as it had adequate generating capacity to meet the demand in electricity.
It added that “the power system is expected to be constrained during the evening peak period (5pm – 9pm), mainly due to increased electricity demand”.
On Tuesday Unit 1 of the Koeberg nuclear power station outside Cape Town was returned back to service after a statutory three-month refuelling and maintenance programme.
The Unit 1, which currently has a total output of 900MW, will help to further stabilise the power system ahead of the start of the cold peak periods this winter, according to Eskom.
There has not been load shedding since Thursday last week, and Eskom said its plan is to continue reducing the maintenance backlog without having to implement load shedding.
Speaking at the launch of the Transnet Development Hub on Friday, Eskom acting CEO Brian Molefe said planned maintenance was mostly completed and so the utility was able to generate more power to meet the increased demand.
“[There will be] no planned load shedding this winter,” he said, according to an Eskom tweet.