Wednesday, January 19

Gordhan tries to reassure the country as stage 4 cargo removal bites

During a hastily convened press conference Wednesday night Minister of Public Companies Pravin Gordhan tried to assure South Africans that the November 1 municipal elections will not be interrupted by lack of power.

Eskom has 100 mobile generators ready to attend polling stations across the country, should the need arise, he said.

This comes as analysts warn that the ANC government may be punished at the polls for the latest round of load shedding that began in Stage 2 on Saturday (October 23) and escalated to Stage 4 four days later.

Gordhan’s briefing came shortly after the ANC in a statement condemned the “anxiety and disturbance inflicted on our people by inconsistency in messages and lack of trust in the nation in the state of the network.”

The ruling party also said it is “concerned that these acts may be deliberate actions by some within Eskom for political purposes.”

Read: A revolution is taking place at the local government level as elections approach

On social media, the timing of the load reduction was widely questioned as a possible effort to sabotage the ANC at the polls.

Timing of cargo removal is ‘a deliberate decision,’ says De Ruyter

However, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter stated in response to questions at the briefing that a deliberate decision was made to proceed with load shedding before the elections in order to replenish emergency resources and thus guarantee the preparation to face any unforeseen event that affects the network during the casting and processing of votes.

Read: Eskom in desperate situation – maintenance delayed due to utilities spending too much on emergency diesel

Meanwhile, Professor Anton Eberhard, an energy expert at the UCT Graduate School of Business, tweeted that 2021 has been the worst year ever for Eskom’s load reduction.

He included this table from CSIR Principal Investigator Jarred Wright:

Source: CSIR

Gordhan said he met with Eskom’s board and management over the course of Wednesday and during “intense discussions” the following recovery plan was reached:

  • During the night of Wednesday, October 27, approximately 2,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity were expected to return to service, after which load shedding would be reduced to Stage 3;
  • On Thursday, October 28, “about 1,000 more” would return and a further reduction to Stage 2 would follow;
  • The cargo shedding is expected to stop by the weekend;
  • For Monday, November 1, when the voting takes place and in the following days, when the votes will be counted, there will be no loss of load “unless unexpected events occur, which I am assured by the board and the administration is unlikely, ”Gordhan said.

He said Eskom and the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) are working together.

Of the 23,148 polling stations, some 16,000 receive electricity from Eskom. The utility company has divided them into groups and each group has a number of generators and technicians on standby to ensure there is power at the voting stations.

Eskom has a total of 100 mobile generators ready to support polling stations, he said.

Gordhan said that the national and provincial results centers, as well as the 240 sites where the results will be captured, have generators if necessary.

The scanners used in the voting process will be pre-charged and will have a 12 hour battery life.

Gorhan apologized to political parties and South Africans for “the anxiety” caused by the severe power outages.

He said Eskom’s board and management “have been instructed to take all necessary steps” to gain any additional skills they may need “and to ensure the appropriate level of professional skill and engineering professionalism.”

This, Gordhan said, was necessary because human error plays a role in breakdowns that cause cargo shedding.

He cited an incident in which an Eskom employee ignored a warning light on one of the units at the Kusile power plant. This led the unit to trip with a loss of more than 600MW in the system.

The employee was fired the next morning, Gordhan said.

Read: Cargo shedding – get ready for more

Fiscus money

Gordhan further stated that he will contact the National Treasury to grant the necessary waivers to allow Eskom to obtain what is necessary to deal with the load shedding.

The compensation of plant managers will be restructured into a basic and a variable amount to ensure that good performance is incentivized and that poor performance has consequences.

Gordhan said the electrical system “urgently needs more megawatts.”

“We have been talking about it for two years.”

Apparently, he struck out at his cabinet colleague, Gwede Mantashe, who, as minister of mineral resources and energy, is responsible for purchasing power from the private sector.

“Those responsible” for adding more generation capacity must see that it accelerates “with greater urgency than has been shown so far,” he said.

Finally he warned that “Eskom should not be seen as political football.”

Rather, the focus should be on getting operations right at Eskom and stopping load shedding.

Listen to Fifi Peters’ interview with Phillip Dukashe, CEO of the Eskom generation group (or read the transcript here):

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