The portfolio committees on Public Enterprises and on Mineral Resources and Energy, as well as the Select Committee on Public Enterprises and Communication held a joint meeting yesterday evening where they were briefed by Eskom on short- and medium-term solutions to load shedding. The briefing also looked at the issue of budgeting for coal plant maintenance versus independent power producers (IPPs), and a response to allegations made by organised labour.
The Chairperson of the Select Committee on Public Enterprises and Communication, Mr Zolani Mkiva, said: “We are not expecting a cut-and-paste presentation, which we have been getting in the past two years. What we would like to get from Eskom’s leadership and management is something that zooms in to what is critically affecting us as a country and as a nation, so that we can have way of dealing with the emergency that is in front of us without having to negate medium term and the long-term view of coming up with a permanent solution.”
The meeting was a continuation of an engagement between the committees and the power utility a week and half ago. That meeting came to an end when Eskom’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Andre de Ruyter, had to leave for another meeting.
In yesterday’s meeting, Mr de Ruyter said in the most viable solution to minimise load shedding is to ensure that Eskom has the funds to run the open-cycle gas turbines (OCTGs) at their maximum capacity. This could save up to two levels of load shedding.
In addition, the expedited return of Kusile 1, 2 and 3 could add over 2 100 MW to the grid. In addition, immediate action is required to secure OCGT funding for fuel oil and diesel to generate 2 000 to 3 000 MW to enable grid stability.
Some committee members’ views on the use of IPPs suggested that the presentation indicated that nuclear energy would be a more reliable and cheaper option that generating power from IPPs. Committee members also questioned IPPs ability to address load shedding, as currently they do not appear to be having much impact on load shedding and have additional cost implications for Eskom. However, members also alluded to the fact that government has adopted a generational mix for the county’s energy supply.
Mr de Ruyter said the initial bid round of IPPs was expensive, but since then, prices have decreased substantially. In addition, contracts for the first round have been signed and will run for about 11 years and Eskom cannot renege on those contracts.
The committee was also concerned about the R57bn municipalities owe to Eskom and said this is a matter that must be addressed in collaboration with the South African Local Government Association and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
The committees were also briefed on Eskom’s maintenance contractors, who are outsourced and who are alleged to contribute to sabotage at the power plants. The members questioned how the quality of their work is monitored and assessed, as this is a problem created by the power utility by not using in-house employees.
Mr Mkiva requested that communication around load shedding be improved and said that the blackouts, “should not be sporadic”.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.