President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation address in Cape Town on 13 February 2020, outlining the government’s plan to resolve the load-shedding crisis at Eskom.
Ramaphosa said that load-shedding has had a debilitating effect on the economy of South Africa and has set back the country’s efforts to create jobs.
“Every time it occurs, it disrupts people’s lives, causing frustration, inconvenience, and hardship,” Ramaphosa said.
“At its core, load-shedding is the inevitable consequence of Eskom’s inability over many years – due to debt, lack of capacity and state capture – to service its power plants.”
He added that in order for Eskom to conduct the maintenance necessary to improve the reliability of supply, load-shedding will remain a possibility for the immediate future.
Generation outside of Eskom
Ramaphosa added that where load-shedding is unavoidable, it must be undertaken in a manner that is predictable and minimises disruption to firms and households.
He said that the government is taking a number of measures to increase generation capacity outside of Eskom, including:
- The development of additional grid capacity from renewable energy, natural gas, hydropower, battery storage. and coal.
- The procurement of emergency power from projects that can deliver electricity into the grid within 3 to 12 months from approval.
- Negotiating supplementary power purchase agreements to acquire additional capacity from existing wind and solar plants.
- Enabling municipalities in good financial standing to procure their own power from independent power producers.
- Dividing Eskom into three operating activities – generation, transmission and distribution – each of which will have its own board and management structures.
“The social partners – trade unions, business, community and government – are committed to mobilising funding to address Eskom’s financial crisis in a financially sustainable manner,” Ramaphosa said.
“This is a historic and unprecedented development since it demonstrates the commitment of all social partners to take the necessary actions and make the necessary sacrifices to secure our energy needs.”
Ramaphosa said that this funding should be implemented in a manner that does not put workers pensions at risk or compromise the integrity of the financial system.
“Through these immediate measures and the work underway to fundamentally restructure our electricity industry, we will achieve a secure supply of reliable, affordable and, ultimately, sustainable energy.”
Expect more load-shedding
Ramaphosa’s address echoes a previous announcement from Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter that South Africans should expect more load-shedding as the power utility conducts sorely-needed maintenance on its power stations.
De Ruyter said that instead of continuing to defer maintenance, Eskom is now actively working on maintaining its power stations.
“In the past, we neglected to perform scheduled maintenance as required, and those legacies are coming home and are causing us to have unreliable equipment,” De Ruyter said.
“This will cause us to have an increased probability of load-shedding over the medium-term as we fix the system,” he added.
De Ruyter said that Eskom needs to and can be fixed, adding that he would not have accepted the position as Eskom CEO if he believed this could not be accomplished.