Eskom CEO André De Ruyter’s load-shedding nightmare

Eskom has had to implement record power cuts since André De Ruyter became its CEO.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) recently published its annual statistics for power generation in South Africa.

The data confirmed that 2021 was South Africa’s worst year for load-shedding, with 40% more energy shed through rotational power cuts than in 2020.

In 2021, Eskom shed 2,521GWh of electricity across 1,169 hours of load-shedding.

Before 2021, 2020 was the worst year of load-shedding — with 859 hours of load-shedding cutting 1,798GWh from demand.

De Ruyter assumed his position as CEO of the struggling power utility in January 2020.

The total amount of electricity shed through load-shedding under De Ruyter between 2020 and 2021 stood at 4,319GWh, more than all of Eskom’s previous CEOs combined.

The outlook is gloomy for 2022 as well, with Eskom already surpassing the severity of load-shedding it anticipated.

Andre-de-Ruyter
André de Ruyter, Eskom CEO

De Ruyter inherited a heap of financial and operational challenges at the utility when he took the helm in January 2020.

While the load-shedding statistics points towards poor performance on the part of De Ruyter and Eskom’s current management, it is important to note that Eskom was seeing a worrying decrease in its energy availability factor (EAF) from at least 2010.

Curiously, in 2016 and 2017, EAF temporarily shot up, and there was no load-shedding.

Several people served or acted as Eskom CEO during those years, including Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko, Johnny Dladla, and Sean Maritz.

Except for Dladla, all these former CEOs face allegations of corruption related to the Gupta family’s attempts to capture Eskom.

Koko served as head of generation from January 2016, a fact which has given firepower to the former CEO and his supporters.

They claim that Koko’s approach to power station management was superior to De Ruyter and COO Jan Oberholzer, resulting in less load-shedding.

However, this ignores that for seven out of the 24 months that South Africa continued to be free of load-shedding, Koko had been suspended for alleged corruption.

Matshela Koko, former Eskom CEO and alleged Gupta confidant

Eskom has told MyBroadband that increased maintenance, additional generation coming online, and more funding were the key factors that contributed to the fleet’s improved performance during 2016 and 2017.

“Building up to the period in question, planned maintenance increased,” Eskom said.

“Specifically, from April 2015, the planned capacity loss factor (PCLF) was over 12.4%, even reaching 15.7% in December 2015, in the ‘maintenance festival’,” the utility added.

“This additional maintenance contributed to the improved performance in the subsequent years.”

In addition, the first unit of Medupi, several IPP renewable projects, and two units at Ingula came online between 2015 and 2016, further reducing strain on the system.

The other key factor was funding.

Eskom’s maintenance spend increased slightly from 2011 and surged between 2013 and 2017.

In the years after that, it reduced drastically as funding constraints restricted available expenditure.

Combined, these factors meant the improvement was not sustainable, as the plants became more unreliable after many years of high utilisation, limited maintenance, and mid-life refurbishments.

The table below shows how much Eskom spent on maintaining its plants between the 2011 and 2020 financial years.

Eskom again reiterated its previous assertions that the primary lever to ending load-shedding was to improve the reliability and predictability of its system, which would result in a better energy availability factor (EAF).

“To achieve this, increased maintenance space and adequate and timeous funding are required in order for Eskom to execute the required reliability maintenance to improve the stations’ performance,” the utility said.

In short, Eskom requires the following:

  • Additional capacity of between 4,000 and 6,000MW as soon as possible.
  • Adequate funding through prudent and efficient cost-reflective electricity tariffs within a reasonable timeframe.

Eskom said it could not comment on why it had not yet received the additional capacity it has requested from the government over several years.

The utility said the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy was responsible for procuring additional capacity.

It has also faced an uphill battle against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa when trying to hike its prices in accordance with the cost of generating electricity.

The table and chart below summarise how much load-shedding was implemented under Eskom CEOs since the rotational power cuts were first implemented in 2007.

Load-shedding in South Africa — 2007 to 2021
Year Duration of outages (hours) Energy Shed (GWh) Eskom CEO
2007 176 Jacob Maroga
2008 476 Jacob Maroga
2009 0 0 Jacob Maroga
2010 0 0 Brian Dames
2011 0 0 Brian Dames
2012 0 0 Brian Dames
2013 0 0 Brian Dames
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
2018 127 192 Phakamani Hadebe
2019 530 1,352 Phakamani Hadebe/Jabu Mabuza
2020 859 1,798 André de Ruyter
2021 1,169 2,521 André de Ruyter


Now read: Eskom’s breakdown crisis in two charts

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Eskom CEO André De Ruyter’s load-shedding nightmare