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Matona: Eskom situation nothing to do with BEE

Dec 08 2014 18:42
Fin24 team
Johannesburg - The situation at Eskom has nothing to do with black economic empowerment (BEE), CEO Tshediso Matona told a media briefing on Monday.

The briefing followed a spate of power outages  across the country due to high demand amid urgent maintenance being performed at Eskom power plants.

In question time after the briefing Matona said it was important to remember that Eskom was a regulated company, regulated by policy - "so what we do is by direction of policy".

Matona said where policy was uncertain it was harmful to Eskom.

Discussion with the government

"We make this point all the time. Determine now what Eskom's role will be in future beyond Medupi so that we can plan now," Matona said in an apparent swipe at the government.

He said policy direction about electricity is government's prerogative - "government must decide who must do what. There is a discussion in government about this at the moment".

Matona said Eskom is ready to engage in any such discussion with the government.

He said the future security of supply depends on Eskom and the government making decisions as quickly as possible.
 
Earlier during the briefing Matona said it really pains Eskom to have to load shed. "We know the public does not take kindly to it. It is not something we derive pleasure out of."

He dismissed any notion of a complete blackout, saying that it will be an extremely catastrophic event, which will take weeks to solve.

"It is too ghastly to comprehend."

Keep the lights on

Matona said the biggest challenge for Eskom is to try everything to get out of this period of high risk for load shedding.

He said Eskom's aim is to "retreat from the brink of disaster".

He said the major reason for the outages is because many of Eskom's plants are down.

"Plant availability has negatively decreased from 85% to 75% over the last five years", he said adding that the plants were "run hard" during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

"This has come back to haunt us,” Matona told the briefing.

He said that capacity had been constrained over the years and during 2010 Eskom had to keep the lights on, which hampered them from doing proper maintenance.

"For as long as we have these old plants and money constraints we will live with the risk of a constrained system," he said.

Matona said Eskom is a lot more prepared for and responsive to load shedding today than it was in 2008.

He said many South Africans do not understand the different load shedding stages. "When you or I are in the dark, we think the whole of the country is in the dark but that is not the case. Even in stage 3 we are still supplying a lot of what is needed.

"Load shedding is a controlled and planned way to balance the load and it rotates so everybody makes their 'contribution'," he said.

Difficult period

He said it is unavoidable that some units will still have to be shut down for maintenance, but "we should be able to cope during the rest of December".

"Beyond this week I am hoping everything we are doing on Monday and Tuesday would be able to see us through. If all goes well we might not have to load shed again over the weekend," he added.

Asking the public to do its bit to contribute by observing warnings to reduce consumption, Matona said the only lever for Eskom to have additional capacity is on the demand side.

"The demand side is our only lever. Help us cope during this difficult period by doing your bit.

"As a country... we need to change behaviour regarding the use of electricity."

Looking at the bigger picture Matona said it is important for power users to know that the neighbouring countries Eskom supply are also load shedding if South Africa load sheds.

"For all of us at the end of the day it is about planning your life around the reality of load shedding," he said.

“Load shedding is jeopardising countless jobs and it cannot be tolerated this casually. It is just shameful that South Africans are now expected to deal with load shedding as if it were unforeseen and inevitable. The ANC government, through mismanagement and failure to plan ahead, have brought us to this point.”



* Read our full coverage on load shedding.

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