Will changing Eskom’s chairman give us more power?

March 31st, 2015, Published in Articles: Energize


Eskom has announced the departure of its non-executive chairman, Zola Tsotsi. The power utility’s website reports Tsotsi as saying that his departure is “in the interest of the company and the country and was done in order to allow the board to focus on the core issues facing Eskom”. Dr. Ben Ngubane has been appointed acting non-executive chairman.

Roger Lilley

Roger Lilley

Analysts are concerned that the utility, which has shed five of its senior executives, including its chairman, chief executive and finance director this month, is focusing on internal leadership issues while it should be concerning itself with reducing costs, improving maintenance and getting additional generation on stream.

Reports from Lephalale indicate that construction at the new coal-fired Medupi power station has come to a halt to allow the workers to take a two week break. This gives the impression that the utility believes that, having synchronised the first 800 MW generating unit to the national grid recently, it can rest on its laurels for a while. It is understood that the first unit, although synchronised to the grid, is not yet actually generating full power onto the grid.

Kusile, another of Eskom’s new-build coal-fired power station projects, where the instrumentation and control equipment contract was recently cancelled on one supplier and handed to another, is also about five years late, and will probably be delayed still further as a result of these recent changes.

It would be reasonable to expect Eskom to focus on bringing the new Medupi, Kusile and Ingula power stations on stream as quickly as possible, while ensuring grid access for all the new generation capacity from the private sector, including industrial cogeneration; renewable energy IPPs (wind, solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar plant); commercial and domestic rooftop solar PV; and open and combined cycle gas and coal powered IPPs.

Despite the fact that the country continues to suffer rolling loadshedding as a result of a shortage of electricity, it seems that Eskom’s focus remains on internal investigations and finding people to blame for its failures.

It is unclear how changing the senior executives will help the power utility meet its mandate of generating and supplying electricity to the nation. Yet this is what is going on while the power utility continues to fail to supply the country with the electricity it needs for economic growth.

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