The situation at state power utility Eskom is dire and has pushed South Africa beyond the tipping point, Energy Thought Leader CEO Mike Rossouw has said.
“Eskom is near a total collapse,” Rossouw said during a recent interview on radio station 702.
Rossouw is the former chair of the Energy Intensive Users Group and was brought on as an advisor at Eskom in 2014, answering directly to former CEO Collin Matjila.
“I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, I see a big train coming down the tunnel at us,” Rossouw said.
“We’re definitely going to have to get used to being in the dark.”
Eskom announced on Wednesday that it would implement Stage 4 load-shedding for the rest of the week, ending at 05:00 on Friday.
Additional load-shedding was needed after units at the Medupi, Kusile, and Matla power stations tripped while a unit each at Lethabo and Arnot power stations were forced to shut down.
Total breakdowns yesterday amounted to 14,957MW, while planned maintenance meant 5,301MW of capacity was not available.
Eskom has promised public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan that enough of its generating capacity should be restored today to move to stage 3 load-shedding.
Despite Eskom’s assurances, Rossouw said the power utility is in the worst shape it has ever been and is getting worse.
“We’re going to see a lot more load-shedding and for much longer,” Rossouw said.
“This is much worse than Covid.”
He said that once Eskom reaches the point of collapse, everything will crumble with it — “Services, everything,” he said.
“It could result in more and more violence. I don’t even want to think about it, but it doesn’t look good.”
Rossouw said he does not hold out hope that Eskom can fix the issues plaguing its fleet of coal-fired power stations because South Africa’s politicians are not willing to do what it takes.
“We’re at the worst place we could possibly have been,” Rossouw said.
“Eskom has failed to restore their fleet, and it’s getting worse.”
Rossouw said that the rate at which power plants are breaking down—including new ones like Medupi and Kusile—is profoundly concerning.
He also said that Eskom’s planning has collapsed, it is suffering from a lack of skills, and the execution of work is way below what it should be.
“The quality of work is such that some of those plants come out of maintenance, and they go straight back into breakdown,” Rossouw said.
On top of that, Eskom doesn’t have spares or money to implement solutions like procuring electricity from independent power producers.
The only way out is for South Africa’s political leaders to step up and take the blame for what has happened.
“Unfortunately, what has to be done is going to be unpleasant, politically and otherwise,” Rossouw said.
“We don’t have the luxury of choices anymore.”