Eskom’s management team is not truly in control – it is politicians who are actually running it.
This is according to energy advisor Ted Blom, who was speaking on Jacaranda FM.
Blom said that that the previous Eskom board did not have the necessary knowledge to run the company effectively.
“The old board of 2018 should’ve never been appointed – they have no knowledge. They had no idea what they were doing and now we are sitting with this problem.”
Blom said distrust in the Eskom board and its efforts was so high that political forces believed they had to intervene.
This is why Public Enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan acted as Eskom’s chief spokesperson at briefings throughout 2019, Blom said.
Blom also believes that it will take the new Eskom CEO, André de Ruyter, roughly two years to learn everything necessary to be effective in his position.
“I have it on good record that the new CEO of Eskom came in early so that some people could start educating him about Eskom and some of the systems,” said Blom.
“There is a lot to learn and I give the new CEO about two years before he will fully understand the logistics of Eskom.”
Political interference is not the solution
“As far as I’m concerned, the political intervention is part and parcel of what’s causing the problem at Eskom,” Blom said.
He highlighted the example of tenders allocated in 2007 regarding the boilers and turbines of the Medupi and Kusile power plants.
“The tender contracts for Medupi and Kusile were corrupt from day one,” said Blom.
He claimed that the tenders of the two applicants – Hitachi for turbines and Alstom for boilers – were switched so as to ensure that the allegedly ANC-favoured Hitachi received the better contract.
This has resulted in sub-par boiler work, said Blom, with Medupi and Kusile only being able to reach 60% and 20% availability respectively.
Things could get much worse
Blom said that while South Africans already view load-shedding as a crisis, things are likely to get much worse.
“There are a whole lot of engineering and structural issues which haven’t come to the fore yet,” said Blom, “So be ready for a lot more interruption.”
Eskom has reportedly warned municipalities that they should prepare their schedules for stage 8 load-shedding.
Since each stage represents 5% of the national load being shed, stage 8 will equate to 40%, Buffalo City Municipality said.
Blom said that if Eskom doesn’t accept emergency assistance, it will need to update its load-shedding tables beyond stage 8, as “things could get a lot worse”.
One solution Blom suggested was the use of powerships.
Blom said that powerships are cost-effective, privately owned and operated floating power stations which can be moored at South African harbours.
Their onboard substations can be connected to the national grid without lengthy delays or complicated engineering, he said.