PODCAST | The Story: Eskom crisis likely to get worse before it gets better

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South Africans have had a rough week as Eskom bounced between stage two and stage four load shedding.
South Africans have had a rough week as Eskom bounced between stage two and stage four load shedding.
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  • Energy analysts have warned that rolling blackouts may become worse in the coming months, before it gets better.
  • Eskom CEO André De Ruyter said load shedding remains a risk until the 4000 MW to 6000 MW of new capacity is added to the grid.
  • 2021 holds the record for the worst year of load shedding since it started in 2008.

South Africans have had a rough week as Eskom bounced between stage two and stage four of load shedding. Faced with up to three outages a day, many people are in despair over Eskom and whether it will ever be able to meet power supply demands. The power outages have created havoc in the business sector, with small businesses struggling to survive the repeated disruption of their operation ability. 

A sense of urgency is needed to address the problem.

In this week's episode of The Story, we speak to News24 investigative journalist Kyle Cowan, who has done a series of investigations into Eskom and its inner workings. Cowan said Eskom has been "corrupted and hollowed out over the course of the past 15 years at the very least, if not longer".

READ | Editorial: If Eskom fails, SA fails

He said the rot is so deep "that there is almost nothing at Eskom that has not been blighted or touched by impropriety or corruption". 

While Medupi and its sister power station Kusile, were commissioned in 2007, they were supposed to be "our saving grace". 

"They were supposed to be finished in 2015, and obviously they're not finished, and that is what a lot of our reporting has centred on, is Kusile and the corruption there," Cowan said.

In a press conference this week, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter revealed that the majority of municipalities instructed to load shed ignored the directive. Cowan believes that's not just "a moral issue, but also a regulatory issue".

"They are creating a massive risk for this complete national blackout and it's something that really isn't forgivable and we should be asking them some tough questions over the next couple of days".

Risk

De Ruyter during this briefing also said that load shedding remains a risk until the 4000 MW to 6000 MW of new capacity is added to the grid.

We also spoke to energy analyst Chris Yelland about the unfolding electricity crisis and what should be done about it. 

The Eskom Files | Find all related stories

Yelland, however, does not believe that Eskom is on the brink of a complete system collapse. "There is always a risk of a national blackout, but the probability is very low indeed". 

Yelland said he didn't want to be "alarmist", but a national blackout would likely have massive consequences if it ever came to that. South Africa would be "plunged into darkness, and there would be widespread civil unrest and looting on a scale that is hard to imagine". 

Yelland said Eskom has a clearly defined set of procedures to prevent this occurrence, and that is why load shedding is necessary - to lessen the risk of a total blackout. 

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