Gordhan promises action to keep the lights on

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says Eskom is bringing in external engineers to conduct audits of ageing power stations.

The minister was speaking to members of Parliament during the debate of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address (Sona).

Some South African homes and businesses have been without electricity for hours after Eskom announced on Monday that power cuts should be expected this week.

This comes mere days after Ramaphosa announced during his address to the nation that a plan is being developed to help save the ailing power utility.

Gordhan says there are various reasons to the instability of the Eskom grid.

In his written speech, which was not read out in the House due to time constraints, Gordhan mentions several causes for ongoing load shedding:

  • Medupi and Kusile: wrong choices were made, wrong designs were introduced and they are not performing.
  • Costs have escalated — three times higher and they are seven years late – and trip regularly.
  • Medupi and Kusile were meant to add substantial generating capacity to replace older power stations and they are underperforming.
  • On Monday, seven power units tripped within 5 hours — this is an emergency/crisis, and last experienced in 2014/15
  • The dependence on diesel as an emergency measure is expensive, supplies are unreliable.
    This is not sustainable.

Gordhan says he has met with executives at Eskom to address current electricity outages.

“We are going to bring in external power station engineers. Have an independent audit done on what is exactly going on to get Eskom back on track and give South Africans the assurance we have an entity that is able to give us the energy security,” Gordhan said.

Gordhan also says the effects of state capture on state-owned enterprises are now becoming more apparent.

“As a result of the damage caused by state capture. Eskom’s pride and capacity has been undermined. We are bold enough, brave enough, and frank enough to talk about on one hand. And bold enough and brave enough to tackle on the other which the members on the left hand side have absolutely no clue whatsoever,” Gordhan told heckling opposition MPs.

On plans to unbundle Eskom and restructure the power utility, Gordhan explained to MPs that Ramaphosa did not say anything about privatising.

“The president said security of energy supply is an absolute imperative. Eskom is in crisis, and the risks it poses to South Africa is great… And that Eskom needs to build a new business model, with separate entities, generation, transmission, and distribution under Eskom holdings. Nothing to do about privatisation.”

Gordhan says he plans to appear before Parliament’s public enterprises committee to give the legislature a detailed report on the challenges facing Eskom.

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