Although Eskom is responsible for keeping the lights on, their hands have been tied by the government
South Africa – Since 2008 South Africans have experienced intermittent load shedding. In fourteen years very little has been done to resolve the situation. We now find ourselves no longer experiencing intermittent loadshedding but continuous load shedding.
The power crisis has reached unprecedented levels. The continuous loadshedding has negatively impacted the very fabric of society, its people, businesses, and the economy. With the lockdowns removed, this was supposed to be a time to lift the economy. Energy expert, Chris Yelland, expects it will only get worse if things do not change.
“If you look at the hours of load shedding this year, we have already experienced more hours of load shooting this year than the whole of last year. We’re just past halfway through the year. Things are getting worse. Some may say that something has been done but whatever is being done is not producing the results. We cannot just continue to do what has not worked for the last ten years. We have to do something really different.”
Eskom is not solely responsible for loadshedding
Eskom’s CEO, Andre Marinus de Ruyter, has been in the firing line as of late. Many have placed the failings of Eskom solely at his doorstep. Although Eskom can be blamed, they are a state-owned enterprise and can only act as the government tells them to. The problems we face as a country go deeper than Eskom, said Yelland.
“This is not just an Eskom problem where you can point fingers at Eskom people. We all know by now that Eskom is actually not responsible for building new generation capacity. Its hands are tied. It’s not allowed to. That is a function of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the Minister of Energy.”
Eskom can also not be blamed for delaying the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) nor can they be blamed for the delays in renewable energy. This is the fault of the government, said Yelland.
“If you just look at the delays to the renewable energy IDP program, the five-to-seven-year delay. Government allowed this program to be blocked. We see at the moment government ministers trying to point fingers at others. Trying to deflect the tension from their own performance.”
We need solutions now, accountability can come later
What we are seeing now are ministers not willing to accept accountability for their actions. Everyone is pointing fingers at each other. Although accountability needs to be taken, we need solutions right now, explained Yelland.
“What we are seeing is this deflection of blame and pointing fingers. I think it is very unhelpful. I think there is a stage where we need to start becoming solution oriented. Not finger pointing and blaming. We know we have a crisis we have to deal with right now. Yes, people need to be held to account. That’s got to be done but, in the meantime, we have to come up with solutions. There have been a lot of calls for solutions and solutions put on the table for how to deal with load shedding.”
Replacing the head is not a solution
Since the start of the year there have been calls for the removal of de Ruyter. Those shouts have only grown louder as load shedding gets worse. While many think this is a helpful solution, it will only take us backwards, Yelland believes.
“Simply replacing de Ruyter does not solve the problems and whoever takes his place will be sitting with exactly the same problem. I believe it would be counterproductive. It would not deal with underlying issues, and it would take the eye off the ball. We need to focus on the ball. What is the problem, and we need to deal with the issues arising.”
The short-term solution to ease loadshedding
There exists a short- term solution for consumers. Although many are thinking about going off grid, Yelland feels that supplementing your energy supplies is a safer and better bet. We will only see the positive effect of this if a large enough base of consumers does it.
“The solutions are going to come from customers of electricity taking ownership of their own energy futures. Supplementing their energy needs which will reduce the burden on Eskom. At the moment Eskom cannot supply what customers want. That’s why we have loadshedding. The more people that supplement their energy needs, the less demand there will be for electricity from the grid. That will help Eskom and enable it to meet its commitments. It will also reduce the pressure the grid currently has, which is a pressure that it cannot handle at the moment.”
There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel at the moment. President Ramaphosa has announced that a plan to combat loadshedding will be revealed in the coming days.