SA faces 'huge struggle' to overcome load-shedding: Pravin Gordhan
"It's going to be a huge struggle ahead of us to actually overcome this crisis."
This is what public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said on Tuesday during a joint media briefing with Eskom in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza added that "law enforcement agencies" had been brought in to investigate the disappearance of money that was supposed to be used for maintenance.
Gordhan said: "We understand the frustration. We don’t have a magic formula. This not about whether Pravin Gordhan or Jabu Mabuza or Phakamani Hadebe single-handedly have a magic wand that can actually enable us to wave that wand and say load-shedding is over."
Gordhan was flanked by Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza, Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe and Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer.
Gordhan said there was 48,000 megawatts (MW) of power installed in SA, but only 28,000MW was available daily.
He said in his opening remarks that 10 to 12 engineers were currently travelling around SA, visiting power stations to give an "independent" view of what needs to be done to fix the power utility.
"In answer to the question, how long will load-shedding last? The direct answer to that question is that we need to complete these investigations and that we will come back to you in the next 10 to 14 days in a similar forum and equally frankly tell you where do we stand on the particular challenges we have."
Eskom briefed Gordhan at the weekend about the collapse of the power supply imported from Cahora Bassa due to cyclone Idai in Mozambique, and a large number of tube failures and breakdowns at local coal-fired power stations.
Eskom showed a slide in its presentation indicating that the average power station was 37 years old.
"Primarily due to financial and capacity constraints, much of the refurbishment could not be executed between 2008 and 2014 as Eskom focused on keeping the lights on," said Hadebe. Eskom will spend an extra R7bn on power station maintenance.
"If you look at the maintenance that has been undertaken in the past 10 years, it has deteriorated, so you have the risk where you have more power stations on the one side, whereas on the other side the maintenance has been decreasing," Hadebe said.
"About 10 years back, the maintenance budget was about R37bn. That has since decreased to about R10bn. In dealing with current challenges, we are putting in another R7bn."
Mabuza said the power utility was struggling to get new power plants working to replace older ones ... "in the past five years in particular, up to February 2018".
He said there would be an investigation into what had happened to the money that should have been spent on maintenance.
"The question has to be: what was that money spent on? That is an issue that is being pursued through the law-enforcement agencies," Mabuza said.
"The plants that were [recently] built have not come on stream fully and the partial commercial availability of those plants has not been sufficient to produce the required electricity."
Mabuza said load-shedding was Eskom's last resort. "This pain, this discomfort that we're going through is unfortunately what we need to do so that we can fix the broken equipment," he said.
This is a developing story.