10 January 2023
DISCUSSION ON THE CURRENT LOADSHEDDING ISSUES
The electricity grid has been struggling for over a decade to consistently match demand and supply. This situation has become worse in the last few years and is projected to worsen. Our members might wonder, what has SAIEE done to understand the reasons and thereby assist?
SAIEE has been actively engaging the Eskom leadership on these challenges. This started with the SAIEE Council meeting of 01 July 2022, where a resolution was taken to nominate a delegation to meet with the Eskom Group Chief Executive, Mr Andre de Ruyter. The SAIEE CEO was accompanied by two past presidents and the Deputy President. A letter outlining the Council’s concerns about Eskom was despatched by the CEO, outlining specific questions to be addressed, which were:
In Eskom’s view, what are the causes of the recent increase in loadshedding (stages 2-6)?
What plans does Eskom have to reverse loadshedding in the immediate term?
What is the outlook of supply adequacy in the short-term (0-3 years), medium-term (3-10 years) and long-term (beyond 2032)?
A meeting date of 17 August 2022 was agreed upon which took place in Megawatt Park, wherein the SAIEE delegation met the Eskom GCEO and his delegation consisting of the GCOO, Generation, Transmission, Distribution and Stakeholder Management Group Executives.
The meeting proceeded with the purpose being emphasized that the SAIEE’s focus was on building relationships towards making a professional contribution in addressing challenges of the day.
The Eskom GCEO shared the context of the present-day challenges. He further expanded that Eskom is busy with a skills audit at each of the power stations and will shortly communicate with SAIEE on its findings from the audit and will call for an SAIEE-facilitated response from its membership to provide the required input to address the identified skills gaps. His aspiration being towards formal, remunerated contracting with each of the skills providers with defined terms and conditions, performance and sustainability linked. The participants’ task would also include skills transfer.
Discussions were held around Eskom’s reliability-based maintenance program. It was agreed that Eskom would arrange a workshop wherein the challenges would be discussed between the parties, so that whatever information is shared on the program would be understood in the correct context.
Individual unit and power station performance was provided in detail to paint the picture of the current problems experienced.
Subsequent to the meeting, Eskom indeed issued a crowdsourcing call in September 2022 and the SAIEE responded by repeating the call to its members through all its social media platforms. Once again the SAIEE would like to encourage all that have the relevant skills and experience to make themselves available directly via that portal ( Candidate - CrowdSource (eskom.co.za) ).
In November 2022, a letter was dispatched from the SAIEE to the Eskom GCOO, requesting him to present and elaborate, to the SAIEE Council, issues that currently plague the Eskom generation fleet, to Eskom’s plans for new generation (nuclear and gas) and energy storage (hydro, thermal and batteries). The GCOO responded positively, and a date of 13 January 2023 was agreed on. The GCOO met a group of Council members attending physically (17) and remotely (6) and made an in-depth, honest presentation on the current crisis plaguing Eskom, these being:
1) Old infrastructure,
2) Human capital,
3) Debt and
4) Fraud & corruption
The Eskom GCOO likened the generating units to vehicles which have been in service for a while and were ageing, which therefore cannot be driven at full capacity. Eskom was not allowed to utilise OEMs to service these machines but had to issue open tenders. These OEMs have since scaled down and face skills ramp-up issues themselves. He iterated repeatedly that Eskom was a policy implementer, not policy maker – and highlighted the importance of SAIEE’s contributing meaningfully to policy making.
From the discussions with Council members, the GCOO promised to look into several points, amongst which were improving Eskom’s communication strategy in order to improve the public’s awareness of the situation and managing expectations.
SAIEE looks forward to further engagements with Eskom in an open and transparent manner that we have witnessed so far. We will continue to address the questions that we have posed in our letters to Eskom, while involving the general SAIEE membership as far as is possible.
I would like to personally thank Past Presidents Andries Mthethwa and Pat Naidoo, Deputy President Jan de Kock and the CEO, Mr Leanetse Matutoane. This is an engagement that promises to be long and hard but eventually fruitful.