‘No shortcuts to solving SA’s energy crisis,’ say ministers

Rolling blackouts will continue because Eskom can't stop its maintenance plan, the committee told Ramaphosa.

In a briefing to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the National Energy Crisis Committee of Ministers warned there were no shortcuts to solving the power crisis crippling South Africa.

The committee, made up of seven Cabinet ministers, said there was no short-term fix to high-stage power cuts, which have become a political crisis for Ramaphosa.


Eskom reduced power cuts from stage 6 to stages 4 and 5 on Monday as the head of state tried to get on top of the spiralling disaster. This was after he canned his trip to the Davos World Economic Forum amid mounting protests against the power cuts.

ALSO READ: South Africa in flames: Protests flare up across the country on Monday

On Sunday night, Ramaphosa met political parties and on Monday met labour and business representatives.

Rolling blackouts will continue because Eskom can’t stop its maintenance plan, the committee told Ramaphosa. “As Eskom steps up its maintenance programmes – as it must do to reduce breakdowns in the future – it has to take more units offline, which reduces the overall amount of electricity available. The complexity of this challenge means we will continue to experience load shedding in the short term.”

The committee will oversee a focus on six underperforming Eskom power stations to stop the domino fall of units, which plunged the country into chaos over December and the new year.

The briefing did not name the power stations, but they are likely to include Medupi and Kusile – the two beleaguered new builds – Kendal, Tutuka and Majuba.

Annual tariff increase

The political temperature shot through the roof last week when the electricity regulator, Nersa, awarded Eskom an annual tariff increase of 18.65%. However, final figures for people and businesses still need to be set.

“We have established a team of independent experts to work closely with Eskom to diagnose the problems at poorly performing power stations and take action to improve plant performance,” the briefing reads.

If Kusile’s unit 5 and others at Medupi, Kusile and Koeberg are restored, then, “as these measures take effect, the supply of electricity improves”. (This could take all year.)

“One of our main challenges is the web of bureaucracy that makes it difficult to respond to the crisis in an agile manner,” says the briefing.

“The National Energy Crisis Committee is therefore working to develop emergency legislation which can be tabled in parliament to allow energy projects to proceed more quickly and enable coordinated and decisive action.”

NOW READ: Nersa approves an 18.65% electricity tariff increase for Eskom

This article first appeared on Daily Maverick and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Cyril Ramaphosa Eskom Minister

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