'Complex' Eskom problem keeping Ramaphosa awake at night

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa attends a press conference after the G20 Compact.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa attends a press conference after the G20 Compact.
Photo: Filip Singer - Pool/Getty Images
  • One of the biggest risks to South Africa's power system is the fact that the country is largely reliant on a single generator of electricity - Eskom, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • Ramaphosa said that he has been informed that some of the unplanned breakdowns at Eskom power stations is linked to negligence.
  • During a briefing the president opened up about the "complex" problem that is South Africa's power crisis.

If South Africans are growing increasingly frustrated with load shedding interrupting their daily life, perhaps it would provide them some solace to know that it's a problem that's keeping the president awake at night.

During a briefing on the ANC's performance following municipal elections last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa also addressed questions on stage 4 load shedding gripping the country this as Eskom continues to battle unplanned breakdowns.

"If there is anything that keeps me awake at night, it is Eskom and electricity generation," Ramaphosa said.

"We are in a very difficult and precarious situation as a nation when it comes to load shedding," he added.

Ramaphosa said it was difficult to put a time frame on when to solve the load shedding problem, as it is "complex".

He lamented that the biggest risk to the power system is the fact that the country relies largely on a single generator of electricity - that is Eskom.

"… [W]e do not have a choice of moving from one to the other," he said.

Ramaphosa noted that independent power producers are filling gaps where they can, but the majority are still under construction.

Recently Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe announced the 25 preferred bidders of round five of the renewable energy independent power procurement programme. They should provide just under 2 600 MW of generation capacity. The country has a generation capacity gap of between 4 000 MW and 6 000 MW.

The country should move toward restructuring Eskom, and allowing the purchase of generation from more players in the sector, Ramaphosa explained. There should be competition in the generation sector.

Transmission of power, however, should still be state-owned.

"That is the pipeline that must belong to the people of South Africa and Eskom on its own belongs to the people of South Africa," said Ramaphosa.

The president also addressed the unplanned breakdowns at some of Eskom's power stations, indicating he had been informed that some of the breakdowns are the result of negligence.


Earlier on Monday, however the president - in his weekly newsletter - described the energy sector as "another area of growth" for the country. 

Referring to the announcement of preferred bidders for Bid Window 5 of the state's renewable power plan, Ramaphosa said the 25 bidders were expected to invest around R50 billion into the economy. 

He also said the recent R131-billion deal which South Africa signed with Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and France at COP26 - in the hopes of speeding up the transition away from coal - could help ease the burden of load shedding, which he described as "debilitating".

South Africa has recently secured an initial commitment of around R131 billion to fund a just transition to a low carbon economy by investing in renewable energy, green hydrogen and electric vehicles.

"This commitment by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the European Union is in line with the Paris Agreement, which obliges wealthier countries to support decarbonisation in the developing world. 

"These energy investments will help us overcome the debilitating load shedding that the country is currently experiencing, as new electricity generation capacity comes online," he said.

Eskom, meanwhile, said it was facing dwindling diesel reserves. 

By early afternoon, total breakdowns amounted to 14 874MW and planned maintenance was at 5 579MW of capacity.

Eskom said it had become necessary to ration its reserves as load shedding continued. 

"It was anticipated that an additional seven units would have returned to service by Monday, and this has not materialised," Eskom said.

"While Eskom regrets the escalation in load shedding, it is necessary to ration the remaining emergency generation reserves, which have been utilised extensively this morning as we are not getting the reduction in demand as expected from the implementation of Stage 2 load shedding."

* Additional reporting by Marelise van der Merwe

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