Three big changes that let Eskom stop load-shedding

Eskom chairperson Mteto Nyati said three things have changed at the utility that have resulted in over 50 days of no load-shedding – leadership changes, a maintenance plan, and execution of the plan.

In the past few weeks, Nyati has been trying to convince South Africans that the lack of load-shedding is not due to Eskom playing politics but is, in fact, a sustainable improvement.

“We are not playing any political games. That is not who we are, and we are never going to start playing those games in the future,” he has said.

“Our focus is to help sort out the challenges facing our country. There is absolutely no connection between the two things.”

He further said that South Africans will soon see if the elections are the reason for the end of load-shedding, with Eskom’s good performance likely to continue after 29 May.

“If everything continues to go well, people will just come up with another conspiracy theory.”

As part of this effort, Nyati explained to Newzroom Afrika what has actually changed at Eskom since he became chairman in October 2023.

The three major changes, including leadership changes, creating a maintenance plan, and executing that plan, are outlined in detail below.

An Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. regional office in the Braamfontein district of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. Eskom, which supplies most of South Africa’s power from coal-fired plants, has been implementing rolling blackouts since 2008 because it can’t meet demand. Photographer: Leon Sadiki/Bloomberg

Leadership changes

Nyati said changes to Eskom’s management team, particularly the appointment of Bheki Nxumalo as the utility’s Generation Executive, have transformed the company.

“You need to have people who get it and understand what is going on. You need people who can pick up that feedback from employees at the plants is accurate and then can hold people to account,” he said.

“When you have got leadership that cannot communicate clearly and just accepts whatever feedback comes from below, that is a problem. So, we had to change leadership within this company.”

Since his appointment, Nxumalo has reviewed Eskom’s plant managers and other senior employees at its power stations.

This has resulted in extensive changes to the leadership at some of the utility’s worst-performing power stations.

Nyati explained that, despite claims from former Eskom executives, the utility is fixable, and the current management team is proving that.

“I heard some people saying you cannot fix Eskom. There is no such thing. You know, there are people who are unable to think that certain things can be done.”

“They must not stand in front of the people who are doing those things, which is what we are exactly doing.”

Maintenance plan

The second thing that has changed at Eskom is that the utility now has a comprehensive maintenance plan that targets its worst-performing power stations.

It is one thing to want the end of load-shedding and another thing completely to outline the steps needed to get there explained Nyati.

The new board discovered soon after its appointment that six power stations contributed 70% of Eskom’s unit failures.

On the other hand, five power stations were performing well. Thus, the management team devised a plan to maintain this good performance while rapidly improving the six plants whose performance was below par.

This resulted in the utility conducting intensive maintenance at the six poorly performing plants to improve the reliability of their units.

Execution

“You can have a plan, but if you do not implement it, then it is useless. That is a big problem in South Africa. We dream, but we can never execute.”

To execute its ambitious Generation Recovery Plan, Eskom has collaborated with original equipment manufacturers to improve the quality of its maintenance.

The problem was not simply a lack of maintenance previously but it was also the poor quality of the repairs done on Eskom’s units, resulting in many tripping soon after returning to service.

Nyati said that maintenance is now conducted alongside OEMs rather than middlemen to ensure that when the units are returned, they are reliable and almost as good as new.

Nyati claimed that Eskom has conducted more maintenance in the last year than in the previous three years. “This is why Eskom is where it is now,” he said.


This article was first published by Daily Investor and is reproduced with permission.

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Three big changes that let Eskom stop load-shedding