Eskom to recruit ex-workers, buy power from private sector as Ramaphosa establishes new energy crisis committee

President Cyril Ramaphosa has on Monday night laid out new measures to deal with the energy crisis, including allowing Eskom to procure power from private players such as mines, paper mills and shopping malls, as well as from neighbouring countries in the SADC region.

These measures are aimed at stabilising the crippling power utility, which Ramaphosa admitted was “unreliable and vulnerable”.

Ramaphosa’s measures at stabilising energy security in the country including fixing Eskom and improving the performance of the existing fleet of power stations.

Over the next 12 months, Eskom will increase its budget towards extensive maintenance of these power stations, Ramaphosa announced, adding that the redtape around procurement of maintenance spares and parts would be relaxed.

The long list of measures also include Eskom importing and purchasing excess power from neighbouring countries in the SADC region, hiring former plant managers who left the power utility, recruiting people who have the skills required to drive Eskom forward, cutting red tape and buying power from private producers.

“One of the challenges that Eskom has faced has been the shortage of skilled personnel and engineers.

“The utility is now recruiting skilled personnel, including former senior Eskom plant managers and engineers from the private sector.

“These skilled personnel will support various personnel and help to ensure that world-class operating and maintenance procedures are reinstated.

“Over the next three months, Eskom will take additional actions to add new generation capacity to the grid on an urgent basis,” said Ramaphosa.

Amongst the issues tabled is the debt of Eskom which is standing at about R400bn and has been one of the factors that have hindered the power utilities ability to address many of its issues

“The National Treasury is working to finalise a sustainable solution to Eskom’s debt.”

“The Minister of Finance will outline how the government will deal with this matter in an effective manner when he presents the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement in October,” said Ramaphosa.

Further measures include the use of climate funding which will be provided through the Just Energy Transition Partnership to invest in the grid and to repurpose the power stations that have reached the end of their lives.

The power utility is also expected to be constructing its first solar and battery storage projects at Komati, Majuba, Lethabo and several other power stations which are expected to boost the system with over 500 MW.

Ramaphosa said the challenges faced by the power utility in recent months included deliberate acts of theft, fraud and sabotage.

As a result, he said the South African Police Service has been brought in to play a vital role in the fight against the crime and corruption at Eskom through the special law enforcement team that has been set up.

He said a number of arrests have already been made in recent days and several others are already being prosecuted for corruption and fraud involving Eskom contracts.

These measures come after nearly two months of continuous load shedding which reached stage 6 load shedding for the first time in the 14 years of load shedding making this the worst energy state the country has seen.

Ramaphosa also established an energy crisis committee, which would act as a one stop shop for issues related to the energy sector.

“To ensure that these measures are implemented in a coordinated manner, I have established a National Energy Crisis Committee. The committee is chaired by the Director-General in the Presidency, and brings together all the departments and entities involved in the provision of electricity.

“The National Energy Crisis Committee will draw on the best available expertise from business, labour, professional engineering entities and community-based organisations.

“The relevant Ministers will report to me directly on a regular basis to ensure that we move quickly to implement these actions,” he said.

The president has recently visited the Tutuka Power Station in Mpumalanga and Eskom Megawatt Park Headquarters in Johannesburg and held engagements with power station managers to gain an understanding of the challenges affecting Eskom’s generation fleet.

Further meetings were held with leaders in business, civil society, labour and political parties.

Ramaphosa has relied on his findings from the consultative meetings that he has held within government and with stakeholders and energy experts outside of government to find a collective solution to the energy crisis.

These measures come after nearly two months of continuous load shedding which reached Stage 6 load shedding for the first time in the 14 years of load shedding making this the worst energy state the country has seen.

South Africa first experienced load shedding in April 2008.

The measures announced by Ramaphosa, along with the steps taken thus far, are expected to stabilise energy security in the country and to help encourage investment in South Africa.

They are also aimed at putting the country on the right path towards reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supply.

“If we work together, if we hold each other to account, if we meet our deadlines and fulfil our commitments, we will end the energy crisis and create the conditions for growth and job creation.” said Ramaphosa.

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