Eskom load-shedding will not go away after the lockdown

South Africans should expect further power issues following the national coronavirus lockdown, as Eskom aims to provide electricity supply reliably by winter 2021.

Speaking in an interview with eNCA, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said that while Eskom has been able to double down on short-term maintenance thanks to reduced demand during the lockdown, it still has a long way to go until it can call itself reliable.

“We still have to do a lot of work to catch up with 10 years of neglect that needs to be repaired,” De Ruyter said.

Eskom previously announced that due to reduced power demand during the national lockdown, it would not implement load-shedding.

Load-shedding is not going away

When asked when South Africans can expect to see the back of load-shedding, De Ruyter said Eskom would only be able to provide power reliably next year.

This means that load-shedding will remain a risk in South Africa following the lockdown period.

“As I indicated in January, we think that there will be a period up until the winter of 2021 before we’ve broken the back of this maintenance backlog and we are able to truly again become a reliable predictable supplier of electricity.”

He added that Eskom has postponed certain intensive maintenance jobs due to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Unfortunately, we had to postpone our maintenance because we had to avoid big concentrations of contractors and staff on our sites,” De Ruyter said.

“But we have been able to conduct much-needed shorter maintenance on double the number of units that we are normally able to do, so we have taken down double the capacity in the face of the drop in demand of about 7,500MW and this has assisted us in doing that maintenance.”

Legacy of corruption and ongoing cases

De Ruyter also noted the legacy of corruption at Eskom and the negative effects it has had on the power utility.

“We are still struggling with the legacy of 10 years of capture and corruption,” he said.

The Eskom CEO also spoke about the investigation into COO Jan Oberholzer which was announced on 19 March.

“The investigation that we are currently doing relates to our chief operating officer,” De Ruyter said.

“The investigation is virtually complete – we are tying up one or two final details and then we will be able to share with the general public what the outcome of that report is going to be.”

“We are already in receipt of the preliminary report and we are therefore confident that well within a week or so we should have that final report in our hands.”

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Eskom load-shedding will not go away after the lockdown