Eskom’s debt drops below R400 billion amid talks of funding for renewable energy

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Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.
Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.
Deaan Vivier

Eskom has reduced its debt to less than R400 billion as discussions ensue to secure funding for a transition to renewable energy, said Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

The state-owned company announced in May it had reduced debt by a fifth to about R401 billion.

"Eskom has done further work to reduce the debt to below R400 billion," Gordhan said Wednesday by phone from Pretoria. "The exact number is still a work in progress," he said, without providing more details.

Eskom hasn't been producing enough electricity to meet the nation's needs, resulting in intermittent power shortages. The utility isn't generating enough cash to cover its operating expenses and interest bill, leaving it dependent on government bailouts to survive.

Chief executive officer André de Ruyter has taken measures to cut costs and find green funding to reduce the company's reliance on government support. That could be dependent on it retiring coal-fired power plants ahead of schedule.

The utility estimates R144 billion will be needed to shut most of the coal stations by 2050. Eskom has plans to repurpose the sites to be powered by cleaner energy sources.

"We have had quite a few discussions with quite a few interested parties, including many development finance institutions, who are prepared to provide concessional funding to Eskom" for a transition to clean energy, Gordhan said. "The ultimate solution will be to integrate all these solutions to enable a just energy transition."

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