Eskom load-shedding war — André de Ruyter versus Mteto Nyati

Eskom chair Mteto Nyati dismissed former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter’s claims the lower load-shedding is thanks to his maintenance plan and burning billions in diesel.

De Ruyter made these claims during a question-and-answer session on Wednesday at the PSG Financial Services’ Annual Conference.

He was asked about Eskom’s poor performance under his leadership, with former chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer as his right-hand man.

He explained that maintaining an Eskom generation unit requires around 18 months of planning, including budgeting and contractor identification.

“Jan and I put in place most of the outages which are currently delivered and contributing to the somewhat improved results we are seeing from the coal fleet,” he said.

He added that the three Kusile units which returned to service made a big difference in alleviating load-shedding.

De Ruyter said another consideration is that he and Jan only had a diesel budget of R6 billion to run open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) — “peaking” power stations intended for emergencies.

“We were very aware of how we had to save to use the diesel very frugally and carefully,” he said.

“The budget for diesel this year is R24 billion. That is four times what we had at our disposal.”

“If the lights are on, well done. However, they are on because we are pouring money into diesel at a rate of knots.”

It is not only De Ruyter who credits his leadership and maintenance plan for the lower load-shedding South Africa is experiencing.

Oberholzer has previously said the maintenance done when he and De Ruyter were in charge is behind the decreased load-shedding.

More recently, economist Roelof Botha argued that the current load-shedding respite resulted from André de Ruyter’s work at Eskom.

He told Nuuspod that De Ruyter’s plans to do preventative maintenance to avoid unplanned breakdowns are coming to fruition.

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati dismissed De Ruyter’s comments, saying he cannot claim that his work is behind the lower load-shedding.

Nyati told The Money Show the improved performance resulted from a plan put together 18 months ago.

“The plan was developed with management, presented to the Eskom board, and approved in March 2023,” he said.

The plan focused on accelerating and executing planned maintenance. However, it differed from the planned maintenance under De Ruyter.

“What has changed is that we partnered with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs),” he said.

“When we take a plant down, we work with people with deep expertise about the equipment used at that plant.”

Previously, maintenance was done by people with limited or no understanding of the equipment at the plants.

Nyati said this was done over a year. “It was a very difficult period, and we had to spend a lot of money on diesel,” he said.

He explained that using OCGTs was necessary to compensate for the generation units taken offline for maintenance.

The plan worked. The generation units returning to service were far more reliable than before, helping to limit load-shedding.

Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom group executive: generation

On Thursday, Eskom hit another record with 32,000 MW of available generation capacity. “This is much higher than the supply,” he said.

Nyati added that De Ruyter had left Eskom before executing the new maintenance plan. “He cannot claim credit,” he said.

“The key person implementing this plan, who was appointed in March 2023, is Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s group executive generation.”

“Nxumalo is the key person who was held accountable for implementing the new maintenance plan.”

Nyati added that the high diesel budget and OCGT use were necessary to support the big maintenance drive.

“We had to minimise the negative impact of load-shedding during the higher maintenance period,” he said.

Now that the results of the improved maintenance are showing, Eskom will cut its diesel budget in half.

“André de Ruyter could have also made that decision when he was CEO. He could have made that choice. However, he made different choices.”

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Eskom load-shedding war — André de Ruyter versus Mteto Nyati