All the load-shedding promises broken by Eskom since 2007

Eskom has a bad track record with keeping its promises to South Africans.

From the recent holiday load-shedding debacle to its declaration in 2016 that load-shedding would not return to South Africa, the power utility has struggled to keep to its commitments.

The threat of load-shedding has loomed over South Africa for 13 years, and it will not be lifted any time soon.

Eskom has contrived various plans and solutions over the years, but each has inevitably failed in sustainably restoring stable electricity supply.

We have listed all Eskom’s load-shedding promises over the last 13 years which it ended up breaking.

The power utility’s electrical output capacity in giga-watt hours is also listed for each period, based on data from its integrated reports.

November 2007 – “Medupi and Kusile will be finished by 2015”

  • Electrical output capacity – 239,108GWh

Load-shedding caught South Africa by surprise in late 2007.

No longer able to meet the growing electricity demand while still conducting maintenance on its power plants, Eskom was forced to sporadically implement load-shedding.

Carte Blanche reported at the time that part of the problem was due to a shortage of coal, and Eskom was also criticised for exporting power to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Eskom had foreseen the power shortage, but the government had not heeded the power utility’s appeal for additional financial support or its projections.

President Thabo Mbeki issued a formal apology for this oversight in December 2007.

“We were wrong. Eskom was right,” Mbeki said.

After load-shedding was first implemented, Eskom began work on its Medupi and Kusile power stations.

Medupi was originally named “Project Alpha”, and was expected to add 4,764MW of power to the grid with a budget of R69 billion.

Kusile was code-named “Project Bravo” – it was planned to deliver 4,800MW of power for a price of R100 billion.

The power utility said these power stations would be completed by 2015 and would greatly assist in resolving South Africa’s energy problems.

Due to limited skills, poor planning, labour strikes, and unrealistic timelines, these power plants were delayed for years and have still not been completed.

Medupi’s completion date has been pushed to 2021 and Kusile is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Load-shedding continued regularly until May 2008, when Eskom managed to temporarily alleviate the problem.

January 2009 – “Kusile will start producing power in 2013”

  • Electrical output capacity – 228,944GWh

In 2009, the country celebrated that there had not been any rolling blackouts since May 2008.

Eskom CEO Jacob Moraga said on 25 January 2009 that the first unit at the Kusile coal power station would begin adding power to the grid in 2013.

However, the first unit at Kusile was only bought into commercial operation in August 2017.

Only three of six power generating units at Kusile are currently synchronised with the national power grid.

July 2013 – “No more load-shedding, we are confident”

  • Electrical output capacity – 216,561GWh

On 10 July 2013, Eskom CEO Brian Dames assured South Africans that they will not experience power cuts going forward, adding that the power utility was confident it would not resort to load-shedding.

“We are busy building, on our side, the new projects and we are busy running our current fleet and maintaining that. We are confident that we will keep the lights on,” Dames said.

Eskom had not suffered load-shedding since 2008, granting it a five-year reprieve from regular rolling blackouts.

In March 2014, however, Eskom was forced to implement load-shedding once again due to a shortage in supply.

Dames resigned within the same month load-shedding returned, citing personal reasons. He was replaced by Collin Matjila.

March 2014 – “Load-shedding is temporary”

  • Electrical output capacity – 216,561GWh

On 6 March 2014, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said Eskom had assured the government that load-shedding was temporary.

Molewa attributed the power cuts to wet coal and handling issues, refusing to acknowledge that there was a major energy supply issue.

“It is as temporary as temporary can be. Once we get back to normality of drier weather this problem will be over,” Molewa said.

“We do not believe we have a crisis in energy at this present time. Eskom did indicate that we do have enough and adequate energy in the grid.”

Despite this assurance, Eskom’s electricity generation became steadily less reliable and power cuts continued, with stage 3 load-shedding being implemented in December 2014.

December 2014 – “There is no power crisis at Eskom”

  • Electrical output capacity – 226,300GWh

Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona said on 8 December 2014 that there was no power crisis at Eskom.

Matona took over as Eskom CEO from Collin Matjila, who served as acting CEO from April 2014 to September 2014, and his tenure would last a total of seven months.

“There is no crisis at Eskom. I think the way Eskom gets reported on creates the perception of a crisis,” Matona said.

He said the power system would remain tight until the Medupi and Kusile power stations started producing power.

The activation of these power stations has been delayed, however, and Eskom has found itself in a crisis of electricity supply.

The cost of Medupi had escalated, increasing from R69 billion to R154 billion in 2015, and the increasing cost of coal contracts also ate away at Eskom’s finances.

Constant strikes by engineering and steelworkers also greatly impeded the progress at both Medupi and Kusile.

February 2015 – “It will take two years to fix Eskom”

  • Electrical output capacity – 226,300GWh

Energy department director Wolsey Barnard told media in 2015 that the power crisis at Eskom was expected to be resolved in 20-30 months.

“It’s going to take in the vicinity of 20 to 30 months,” Barnard said. “But for the next couple of months, we’re going to pay severe attention to get maintenance up, get normality up in the supply.”

The government said it was crucial to address infrastructure maintenance backlogs, which were causing severe problems with electricity generation.

Barnard added that Eskom’s situation could be greatly improved by diversifying its energy mix. He remains a director at the Department of Energy today.

May 2015 – “No load-shedding this winter”

  • Electrical output capacity – 226,300GWh

Eskom CEO Brian Molefe said on 29 May 2015 that there would be no load-shedding during the winter season, stating that most of the maintenance work was done in summer.

Molefe was seconded from Transnet to take over Eskom in April 2015. He served as chief executive for over a year until November 2016, when he resigned after being implicated in public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.

“[There will be] no planned load-shedding this winter,” Molefe said. “Limited maintenance will be done during this period as most work was done in summer,” he said.

Molefe’s promise was broken in record time, with stage 2 load-shedding being implemented on 8 June 2015.

June 2015 – “Maintenance without load-shedding”

  • Electrical output capacity – 238,599GWh

Eskom CEO Brian Molefe stated on 14 June 2015 that the power utility’s new plan was “maintenance without load-shedding”.

Molefe said that Eskom aimed to continue to maintain its power generation infrastructure while removing the need for load-shedding.

Molefe said that with Eskom’s installed capacity of 43,500MW, and the average power demand in winter 33,000MW, they hoped to implement a “maintenance budget” of 9,500MW.

This would eliminate the need for “risk” maintenance of 6,000MW.

Eskom’s plan was to deal with a backlog of work needed on power stations which had accumulated over the years and had resulted in decreased electricity supply.

Despite this plan, Stage 1 and stage 2 load-shedding continued regularly from June to August 2015.

September 2015 – “In two years, you will forget these problems ever happened”

  • Electrical output capacity – 238,599GWh

Reporting on his progress in turning around state-owned enterprises in September 2015, then-deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa assured the NCOP that in two years all of these problems would be resolved.

“In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power and energy and Eskom ever happened,” he said.

Ramaphosa did not then elaborate on the plan to solve the problems at Eskom, only assuring the NCOP that the issues would be resolved.

“Eskom is another utility that has faced challenges. But even Eskom is being turned around,” Eskom said. “And we all know the challenges that Eskom faces and we’ve never hidden them.”

2015 was the initial completion date set for the Medupi and Kusile power stations, but they continued to suffer delays due to worker strikes, design flaws, and poor planning.

At this point, Medupi was expected to be completed in 2019 and Kusile had an expected completion date of 2020.

After September 2015, South African’s did not suffer load-shedding again until 2018, when Ramaphosa’s promise was eventually broken.

May 2016 – “We will never have load-shedding again”

  • Electrical output capacity – 220,166GWh

President Jacob Zuma met with Eskom management on 6 May 2016 and assured South Africans that they will not experience load-shedding ever again.

“I am going to tell people there will never be any load-shedding, I have been here, I have seen it,” Zuma said.

Load-shedding returned to South Africa for a brief period in June 2018 and was later implemented more heavily in November 2018.

August 2016 – “Load-shedding is history”

  • Electrical output capacity – 220,166GWh

Eskom CEO Brian Molefe was confident when addressing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises on 31 August 2016, stating that Eskom was on firm footing.

“Plant availability is 80% and more, which is almost a miracle, considering where we were a year ago,” he said.

“We do not anticipate load-shedding and the new build programme will meet its deadlines. We are prepared to meet excess supply of electricity.”

Plant availability refers to the amount of time a plant is able to provide electricity over a certain period.

The build programme Molefe was referring to included the revised deadlines for Medupi and Kusile. Medupi’s Unit 5 was set to come online in March 2018, and Kusile’s Unit 1 was expected to come online in the second half of 2018.

Stage 1 load-shedding returned to South Africa in June 2018.

April 2019 – “No more load-shedding from today”

  • Electrical output capacity – 218,939GWh

From August 2016 until June 2018, South Africans did not suffer any load-shedding. Stage 1 load-shedding was implemented in June and July 2018, and power cuts became more frequent in November 2018.

After the return of load-shedding and its acceleration in February and March 2019, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan revealed Eskom’s plan to fight load-shedding in South Africa.

Gordhan said Eskom’s goal was to ensure there would be no more load-shedding from 3 April 2019.

This was proved wrong when Eskom implemented stage 2 load-shedding on 16 October 2019.

December 2019 – “No load-shedding over the holidays”

  • Electrical output capacity – 218,939GWh

President Cyril Ramaphosa promised South Africans on 11 December 2019 that there would be no load-shedding over the holiday season.

“It will not be a dark Christmas – management has promised us there will be lights,” he said.

Despite this, Eskom implemented load-shedding on 4 January and 8 January 2020.

Load-shedding continued to be implemented in South Africa as the electricity crisis worsened, peaking at stage 6 load-shedding on 9 December 2019.

Plans to improve

Power cuts continued on an almost daily basis well into February 2020, with Eskom stating that load-shedding is expected to continue for the next 18 months.

Eskom appointed a new CEO – Andre de Ruyter – on 15 January 2020, who planned to implement regular load-shedding in an effort to conduct much-needed maintenance on the power utility’s hardware.

As of February 2020, the Medupi and Kusile power stations are still not completely online and are only expected to be fully-commercialised in 2021 and 2023 respectively.

In an effort to curb the effect of load-shedding, municipalities including the City of Cape Town have asked to buy power from private generation companies.

The Department of Energy has since stated that it will implement a number of measures to aid municipalities and private companies in coping with load-shedding.

Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe recently stated that energy regulator NERSA has already approved 75 applications from private companies wanting to generate energy for self-use.

He said applications came from individual households and companies, and that most of them were mining companies.

Cabinet has also approved allocations for wind power and other renewable technology to form a greater part of South Africa’s energy mix.

This could diversify South Africa’s energy supply and improve its reliability while reducing reliance on Eskom’s struggling power infrastructure.

Now read: Eskom stage 2 load-shedding to continue until Sunday

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All the load-shedding promises broken by Eskom since 2007