Huge struggle ahead to overcome Eskom crisis – Gordhan

No end date to load shedding in sight.
Minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan is pleading with South Africans for understanding while it works with the utility to bring units back online. Picture: Moneyweb

As South Africa entered its fifth consecutive day of load shedding on Tuesday, Eskom executives and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said that while the country is “very far” from a complete blackout, the situation is at crisis levels and they cannot commit to an end date for the electricity cuts.

The South African public has often been left in the dark, for lack of a better description, on the reasons for load shedding and has become frustrated with the lack of warning ahead of load shedding implementation. 

While tropical cyclone Idai was the root cause of the dramatic escalation of load shedding on Saturday (from Stage 2 to Stage 4 within a matter of hours), there are greater problems at play. Gordhan says that a special crew from the SANDF, combined with technicians, have been flying over Mozambique transmission lines (that carry power to SA from Cahora Bassa) and the pylons to hold up these lines to review their status. He says that further visits are planned over the next few days to assess the extent of the damage. 

It is, however, the 11 units that are currently down at its SA-based power stations – and their lack of maintenance – that is the main source of problems for the power utility. Gordhan says government and Eskom management are getting a better idea of the problems power stations are facing and how they can be overcome. This is thanks to reports from the presidential task team, which developed the 9-point plan in 2018 for the utility, and feedback from independent engineers who are tasked with visiting the power stations. 

Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile mega power plants have been marred by problems and cost overruns, but other coal-fired plants are suffering severe problems owing to lack of maintenance, Eskom executives said. The latter, Eskom said, comes as a result of a lack of planned maintenance over the last five to 10 years. Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza said having rid the utility of malfeasance, it became clear that there has been a significant reduction in maintenance over the years. 

Ageing plants don’t help.

According to general manager for systems operations Bernard Mogoro, Eskom’s coal-fired power stations are 40-55 years old, while most power plants are retired at between 30-40 years. “They have been driven hard and refurbishments need to take place or performance is compromised.” Chairman Phakamani Hadebe said the maintenance of these plants deteriorated substantially over the last 10 years and that during this period, maintenance spend saw a drastic reduction from R37 billion to R10 billion.

So, the question, therefore, is where was the money spent? 

Gordhan and Eskom executives said that this issue is being pursued through law enforcement agencies and the Zondo commission of inquiry and that South Africans can expect to receive further detail on malfeasance at the state-owned company in the coming months.

In the past, Eskom decided not to maintain new plants and rather build new ones. Mabuza noted, however, that the reality is that these plants have not come on stream fully and have not been able to produce the required electricity. Costs for Medupi and Kusile have sky-rocketed due to design defects and many are wondering why these assets have not been disposed of. Eskom executives said on Tuesday that the average return on asset is 21% and that Medupi and Kusile are on the higher side of this return ratio. “We would be selling our most return-yielding units. We are, however, looking at what the impact would be of not spending more [on the units].”  

Meanwhile, Eskom’s COO Jan Oberholzer explained to media that the boilers, which feature in each generating unit and are used to heat water into steam for the electricity production process, are experiencing a high volume of tube leaks. He explained that the leaks are challenging to repair as the unit has to be shut down to cool before anybody or anything can get into the boiler. The tubes also run up to 100 metres in length.

Currently, seven of Eskom’s units are out of action due to tube leakages. “In the next few days, these units should be coming back online but this is biting us big time,” Oberholzer said.

Speculation has circulated around potential sabotage of Eskom by those looking to undermine the new administration, and this was a question that was raised at the briefing (in relation to the tubes). However, Eskom was not willing to respond.

Eskom supplies more than 90% of the power in South Africa but around 17 000MW of Eskom’s installed capacity of 45 000MW is unavailable, Gordhan said. The lost 20 000 MW is owed to the supply line being cut off from Cahora Bassa and units coming offline. When there’s not enough capacity to meet demand, load shedding is implemented.

Eskom has a breakdown allowance of 8 000MW but when this breakdown space increases so drastically, it eats through reserves and planned maintenance, Oberholzer explained. “We use diesel and end up load shedding to meet demand.”

“We need to ban diesel on OCGT turbines; they were never intended to be used as base load,” Mabuza said. “Not only can the country not afford it, but there is no diesel in SA.” Refineries had made 25 million litres of diesel available to Eskom but it has now exhausted these supplies. In terms of Nersa regulations, Eskom is permitted to use 1% load factor usage of OCGTs – this translates to a cost of R600 million per year.

“However, over the last three to five months, given the problems we have experienced in terms of coal supply and unavailability of plants, we have spent over R5 billion in this time instead. There is a problem in terms of funding this gap,” Mabuza said.

The last resort, he said, is to load shed. “It’s not something that is taken lightly and we understand the pain and discomfort yet we do hope we will be able to reach a certain level of predictability.” So, how does the utility plan to fix the problems? Executives and the minister say time with the equipment is needed to maintain it, which involves assessing, procuring and implementing. The panel appealed to South Africans for understanding during this period. 

While the utility didn’t elaborate on the exact plan going forward, it said that routine ways will not be adequate to address this “crisis situation”. “We hope that with feedback from the technical team and 9-point plan task team, we can update South Africans on the situation.”  

Gordhan said that government, together with Eskom executive team, will come back to South Africans in 10-14 days with an update on where things stand.

“This is not about pointing fingers at anybody,” says Gordhan. “Today, we are faced with a crisis. We have been here before and taken steps to manage it for example by introducing energy-saving measures. We have to go back to the drawing board and come together as a nation.”



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So will all those fat cats at Eskom give back their bonuses and salaries, because clearly, they weren’t doing their jobs??

How pathetic is Eskom???

The minister (Pravin Gordhan) has to problem manage their problems?

Micro manage and resolve Engineering problems? these are supposed to be seasoned Engineers at a professional level.

7+ hrs of continuous blackouts, 4th day in a row in Randburg……It’s getting worse.

Yes, the fat cats should return their performance bonuses.
Although he will not have much to say, Zuma should now be put in front of the Zondo commission and questioned.

Flying pigs and snowballs in hell spring to mind

“Gordhan says that a special crew from the SANDF, combined with technicians, have been flying over Mozambique transmission lines (that carry power to SA from Cahora Bassa) and the pylons to hold up these lines to review their status”

Yeah right, the same military idiots on Armed Forces Day 2019 that the ordinance regiment got stuck on the beaches, couldn’t aim to shoot down targets (not one) and in marching ended up like a bunch of bafoons

He He He, that’s not how the world works son

The other day on the radio a former Eskom employee described what working at Eskom was like after 1994. She described how countless people would sit around all day not knowing what to do, with little enthusiasm for doing any form of work. To address the lack of skills, employees were regularly sent on training courses but often large numbers of people didn’t pitch up for the training and no disciplinary action was taken against them. There were even cases of employees playing golf during office hours and likewise nothing ever happened to them either. White qualified managers and engineers were replaced with the new cadres who were so out of their depth, that it was not even funny. Whenever a difficult decision needed to be taken, the logical response was to postpone it. There was (and probably still is) a total absence of proper project management and planning and an appreciation for the bigger picture. Getting paid at the end of the month was the sole and only objective in order to buy cars, furniture, clothes, go to restaurants etc. After a few years, she couldn’t stand this soul-destroying circus any longer and she resigned.

Surely ESC0M must have engineers in it’s bloated workforce? Why do they then need “independent engineers” to come up with a solution? Perhaps the management and/or their engineers are of that red overall variety that only collects pay and cannot manage or do any engineering work.

I suspect it is a poor management problem.

Where are the days of accountability, honesty and pride in your work done?

If your work keeps getting revisited because it keeps breaking then you are the wrong person for the job.

Duh! So some tenderpreneur can score some “loose change” for him and the extended family… Why else?

Engineers have an annoying and inconvenient habit of using facts and logic so they would have had to be cut ages ago by cadres whose skill was magical thinking and theft.

The fact that they were almost all white made it a no-brainer to the ANC-mind.

Outsource Eskom to the Chinese, they will deliver on time and on budget.

Clearly people at Eskom have been overpaid for a job not done.

……. or maybe try and get back all those engineers/technicians who were fired/retrenched because of their skin colour and now working happily in places like Malaysia …… ? Cadre deployment seems not to be all it was cracked up to be.

“deliver on time and on budget” is not an aim of an SOE controlled by ANC cadres.

Theft and patronage is the aim, so Eskom is doing just fine, thank you very much.

And the blah, blah, blah, continues and the gullible masses are lapping it up.
Funny how the unions were marching in front of Magatwat Park when it was time for a salary increase (that were granted) and now that we have load shedding stage 4 (and 5 and 6 being planned) the unions remain silent.

As this continues, no further economic growth in SA will be possible.

MOODY’s can now just as well give SA’s credit rating “the chop” 🙁

R2billion a day is lost due to the anc inability to run a country, they were handed one of the worlds best run utilities and in 25 short years destroyed it.

South Africa’s national debt and provincial debt combined is 96,50% of GDP.

Blah, blah blah. Criminals, incompetents and excuses. This catastrophe seriously undermines all the efforts of those trying to save SA, from the faithful worker right up to the president. “Cry the beloved country” is all I can say.

We want the truly guilty ones to be brought to book for ruining our beautiful land and wonderful people. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

And another thing – I know its complex – but why is nobody able to even start sorting it out – I mean its just getting progressively worse? They’ve been doing nothing but talking for how many years now? How many billion is load-shedding costing per day?

We need to utilize every cent we can to get out of this mess and get GDP going at at least 3% to succeed. The money used to be lining someone’s pockets but now its just going down the tube! Its a crying shame!

It is not complex. Simply open the cupboard with the operating instructions in it and operate as per the manuals. They will specify what coal to buy, how to operate and maintain the boilers and generators. However maybe the operators are too useless to operate as per the manuals.

A self-inflicted struggle!

Eskom, how about getting rid of MORE skilled engineers, as a result of wrong skin colour??

The Cahora Bassa excuse is nonsense and a red herring. I understand that at best it contributes only 1 200 MW, which is a drop in the ocean in relation to what is required. Gordhan rabbiting on about flying over the lines to assess damage is ridiculous. Let’s have some honest truth. We have been robbed blind and his mates in the ANC should accept and take the blam.

“NO end date to LS in sight”

Well, I’m willing to make a prediction….at least SA can look forward to NO load-shedding in the week or two leading up to national elections on 8 May!

Anyone know whether Soweto is presently being subjected to load shedding? Just asking…

Eskom’s load shedding is not logical and not performed in Eskoms best interest. Why not simply shed the people ho do not pay. Then the load is balanced at no cost to Eskom. Instead they turn off their paying customers and drive them off the grid so not only losing current revenue but future revenue as well. I know in all probability the people who do not pay are the ANC voters but Eskom is a business and not a part of the ANC therefore politics should not interfere with business decisions.

that is how their minds work… logic.

Here’s how I see it: The ANC, a hundred plus years old organisation, should be the world experts on how racism can destroy. But here we are in 2019 and they don’t even seem to have a smidgen of insight into why Eskom is where it is. You can talk all you like about this turbine and this unit but when you break it down Eskom is where it is because of the ANC’s racism. Yet the ANC, who for so many years fought Apartheid, seem to have learned absolutely nothing about the ills of racism. Eskom is a monument to the ANC’s racism and its (Eskom’s) destruction came about because other races were deemed inferior to its employ and surplus to its requirement while a certain race deemed itself superior and could be employed on whatever basis. When you add arrogance you have the recipe for disaster – a normal process of taking over anything is to learn from the incumbents before putting them to pasture. Every time you hear the word ‘transformation’ from now on just replace it with the word ‘racism’.

Actually, “Transformation” = “Destruction”.

What a bunch of colossal morons. Roll on my emigration date.

Load shedding will end once demand drops below supply. You drop demand by shutting heavy power users such as mines and manufacturers. Load shedding will end soon I fear.

Nothing that 150 days of new public holidays won’t fix

We can surrender to a perceived greater force than all the good people in SA. Lets not act as if we can do nothing to resist.

We can resist in our own ways.

Lets not give them the power to win.

We can moan or we can be pro-active.

Switch off EVERYTHING not essential. KEEP it off. Work on weekends and at night where possible. WE need to change our habits voluntarily and not be forced to do so.

Lets do EVERYTHING practically possible for as long as it takes.

Take back the POWER.

We can do better so let’s do it.

The less power we use, the less income ESKOM and the municipalities get. The more they up the price and ad a levy as well, like in Cape Town.
We lose all the way.

Just going to speed up the demise of Eskom. Consumers (especially the large industrial consumers) have scaled back dramatically over the past decade. Eskom caught in a death spiral. Revenue declining because of poor service, lower revenue means less money for maintenance and higher cost of borrowing which leads to worse service and so it continues.

There is at least one thing Eskom is doing really well at, its BEE rating.. 😉

Eskom BEE = Blackouts Every Evening !

Hmmm – I smell another case of ‘capitalise the gain and socialise the pain’.
@Chris Yelland – please, oh please would you let us have your expert analysis and assessment of the situation. The Cahora Bassa issue really does sound like a red herring in terms of loss as a percentage of total outage. What are the real issues at the existing plants (excluding the new builds)? Is it one or two single points of failure or general maintenance related issues? What are your estimates on the mean time to repair for this situation? what is the problem split between poor feedstock and poor plant maintenance? What are your personal thoughts on the way forward in resolving the general issue and getting plant availability back to over (say) 85%?

We are being lied to. At every turn. This whole load shedding fiasco is so that the looting continues. They scheme and scheme to keep the gravy train running.

The $10 billion received from Saudi’s on 12 July 2018 was to be “directed to energy and power creation”- where did this money go?

The R33.4 billion loan from China Development Bank (24 July 2018) meant for “the construction of Kusile power station” – was it used on this station?

There are so many other dots to connect, but you can check it out here:

The sad part is this: the ANC will win the election on 8 May 2019.

You have to hand it to the houties. When they break something they do it properly!!

You can’t fix Eskom – it’s SA’s titanic. It’s so deep in the hole that it will never get out – my electricity bill is actually going DOWN as a result of load shedding. the ANC sat and watched Eskom loot and Eskom rot. All these lovely yellow ANC posters with Cyril on them with the phrase – let’s grow south Africa together is a load of rubbish – and you KNOW IT. the ANC will stay in power through any means necessary. #fightthefuture. it is the ANC way to reward incompetence and NEVER ever punish anyone EVER – just look at JZ.

Eskom is the culmination of the ANC’s culture of non – accountability over the last 60 years – and still Gordhan says not to point fingers.

Who benefits most from the Eskom disaster, train problems and Police strike – the Zuma crowd, who are trying to make CR look bad – so arrest them, as they are probably the instigators.

End of comments.




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