South Africa has endured more load-shedding under current Eskom CEO André De Ruyter than all his predecessors combined.
This is based on data from the Council for Scientific Research (CSIR), which has tracked the amount of rotational power cuts implemented each year since 2007.
That was when the country first suffered rotational power cuts due to a lack of generating capacity.
De Ruyter’s first two years at the helm of Eskom have been the worst yet for load-shedding, and energy experts expect his third to be no better.
In 2020, De Ruyter’s first year in charge, Eskom shed 1,798GWh of electricity over 859 power outages. That was despite the Covid-19 pandemic hampering economic activity.
That was already a larger amount of electricity shed than under any previous Eskom CEO.
The situation only got worse in 2021, with 1,136 power outages shedding a total of 2,455GWh of electricity. This does not include the electricity shed during the day of stage 2 power cuts between 4 and 5 December 2021.
Combined, these two years have seen 4,253GWh of electricity being shed from the grid due to load-shedding.
That figure is well above the rotational power cuts implemented under De Ruyter’s predecessors throughout their respective terms.
In fact, it is higher than the combined load-shedding implemented under all his predecessors.
Eskom shed 652GWh of electricity through power cuts under Jacob Maroga, the first CEO under which load-shedding was required.
The closest anyone came to De Ruyter’s stats was Phakamani Hadebe, who served between 2018 and 2019.
During these two years, Eskom had to implement 1,544GWh of load-shedding.
The table and graph below show how much load-shedding was implemented under each Eskom CEO since 2007.
|Load-shedding in South Africa — 2007 to 2021|
|Year||Duration of outages (hours)||Energy Shed (GWh)||Eskom CEO|
|2014||121||203||Brian Dames/Collin Matjila|
|2015||852||1,325||Tshediso Matona/Brian Molefe|
|2016||0||0||Brian Molefe/Matshela Koko|
|2017||0||0||Johnny Dladla/Sean Maritz|
|2019||530||1,352||Phakamani Hadebe/Jabu Mabuza|
|2020||859||1,798||André de Ruyter|
|2021*||1,136||2,455||André de Ruyter|
|*Not including Stage 2 load-shedding from 4-5 December 2021.|
While De Ruyter would certainly not be proud of this record, it would be unfair to apportion full blame for Eskom’s current dismal performance solely on him.
The CEO has inherited a legacy of issues at the power utility, including a lack of much-needed maintenance at its old coal-fired power plants, many of which are well beyond their life expectancy and are reaching their breaking points.
Eskom has stated that previous management at the utility had not undertaken the required maintenance.
This claim was inadvertently supported by finance minister Enoch Godongwana, who slammed De Ruyter for Eskom’s performance despite him being allowed to carry out more maintenance.
The implication was that previous CEOs were not allowed to carry out the same amount of maintenance as De Ruyter.
Eskom has also seen a worrying increase in power plant breakdowns, which have seen the generation fleet’s energy availability factor (EAF) plummet.
The graph below shows how Eskom’s EAF has changed between January 2001 and November 2021.
Another contributing factor is the problem-riddled Kusile and Medupi power plants.
These stations were supposed to have been completed by 2015 to provide an additional 9,600MW of capacity to the grid.
But severe design defects due to dodgy contracts have resulted in significant delays and much lower output than initially intended.
As of November 2021, the Medupi power station had an energy availability factor of around 60%, while Kusile was at less than 30%.
Despite these significant challenges, he has lasted the longest of any CEO at Eskom since Brian Dames left the company in 2014.
Between then and 2020, Eskom had nine permanent and rotating acting CEOs that included controversial figures such as Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko, and Sean Maritz.
He is also the first CEO in 15 years to have reduced the utility’s massive mountain of debt, with a reduction of more than R100 billion since he took the reigns.