Energize Inbox, April 2015

April 9th, 2015, Published in Articles: Energize


re: Eskom must shed 1081 white engineers


The media recently reported that Eskom’s CEO said that the utility must shed 1081 white engineers in order to correct the demographics of the organisation. Although Eskom has backpedalled on these reports, following a statement by the deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, it is clear that someone quite high up must be thinking along those lines. The original newspaper article (in Afrikaans) said that Eskom’s CEO said that the utility would not do it right away due to the current crisis. How encouraging! That’s like saying to these white engineers, “your job is okay for now while we need you, but after that, out you will go!” Would anyone be surprised if some white engineers find that demotivating?

It is essential that Eskom makes use of the best available talent – people who embody IQ and EQ, and have the necessary training and experience – to keep the power utility operating properly and efficiently. Quotas (if they ever have a place) should be applied at the recruitment end, which is where the supply of new engineers will come from, so that new incumbents can learn from old-hands. Retrenching the ones who should mentor and teach new recruits is sheer madness. Especially considering that these are the people who will be required for years to come to deliver Eskom’s essential service.

Eskom has said that what is keeping the grid stable and preventing a nation-wide blackout – resulting on no power for anyone anywhere for two or three weeks while the system is restarted again – is its central control centre which is manned by highly skilled and competent people who have years of experience. Replacing them with inexperienced people would surely increase the risk of a national blackout significantly which is contrary to the good of the country.

Chris Herold


re: The electricity sector – understanding the drama and moving on


Chris Yelland’s article, “The electricity sector – understanding the drama and moving on” published online at
www.ee.co.za on 31 March 2015.

One factor not so far mentioned is the preoccupation of government with all those renewable projects at around 100 MW each, generally using 50 or so machines of about 2 or 3 MW each, and unlikely to achieve 40% of the actual kWh production of electricity that fossil fuelled machines and nuclear powered machines do, MW per MW of their nameplate (maximum) ratings. Instead of getting on with creating conditions conducive for utilities installing generators that run when required, rather than at the whim of the elements. Or are we now incapable of finding staff able to run and maintain real generators any more without blowing up boilers, destroying whole turbines, shorting transformers with scaffolding, etc?

And the so-called shareholder running the business is seldom a good idea, particularly when the same shareholder since starting to govern has been so big a factor in the SA currency declining to a tenth of its value. And is no help at all with recovering unpaid accounts for electricity, or disciplining vandals, infrastructure destroyers, metal thieves, and the like.

Alan Mitchell

re: South Africa does not have a shortage of generation capacity


The statement made in the article “South Africa does not have a shortage of generation capacity” (Energize, March 2015, page 14) is nonsense! We should be growing by about 4 TWh per annum since 2008, when we went through the long-predicted ceiling we are therefore short about 25 TWh. Even if all Eskom’s stations were working at 90% efficiency, we would still be short of about 25 TWh. Even with the 1 TWh coming in from the new renewables, we are short. Projects are stalled. Economic growth is significantly less than population growth – i.e. we are all getting poorer. This is window-dressing.

James Donnell

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