Keep an open mind when viewing our power crisis

Keep an open mind when viewing our power crisis

The situation is critical. The outlook is dim (pun intended). As we are plunged once again into darkness; this time with the new excitement of Load Shedding Stage 6; perhaps we should use this night time solace as a Government imposed pause for some reflection and introspection on our power crisis.

How The Power Utility Got Here

Let’s start with some reflection on how we got here, as expressed from the Eskom COO, Jan Oberholzer and summarised below:

  1. Eskom has not done maintenance on its power stations and boilers in 10 years (that’s ten years); that means that when inevitable wear-and-tear happens, boilers need to be turned off to repair them.
  2. The in excess of 240ml of rain in some areas (Middleburg) flooded Kendal Power Station making it go offline.
  3. The incline conveyor belts feeding Medupi Power Station had an electrical problem which stopped coal from being fed into the bunker.
  4. Again with the inordinate amount of rain that fell; the coal got wet and wet coal doesn’t burn anywhere near well enough to deliver a consistent supply of electricity.

At the time of writing this, Minister Pravin Gordhan commented in the same news report on ENCA that,

“On behalf of government, I am really sorry that we find ourselves in this position. The massive rainfall we have experienced over the past few days has caused problems for many of our people. It is not a big crisis, it is something we are managing. I would say this is a manageable crisis. We just need to apply our expertise.”

Today’s Power Revelation

Today we hear that not only have we got internal structural, governance, management, maintenance and competence issues with our power utility, but there have also been major major sabotage amounting to the loss of 2 000 MW of power.

Finally, President Cyril Ramaposa breaks his silence and says:

“What has also come out as a great concern is that there has been a measure of sabotage. Sabotage that has led to loss of during this period of 2000mw where someone in the Eskom system disconnected one of the instruments that finally led to one of the boilers tripping and us losing as much as 2000 I think it was two boilers”.

In effect, News24 is reporting that the Zimbabwean government have illegally connected to the Eskom grid along the Limpopo river and have been syphoning power from our grid to bolster their own supply!

This is over and above the power which we sell to the country; which they happen to be behind on their payments of; by the way.

The cynic and the sceptic in me feel that this is all too convenient to have suddenly discovered foul play and all of a sudden Eskom are the victims and not the heinous organisation we all thought they were?!

The Lessons We Need To Learn

Throughout all of this, we as a nation have to keep looking toward the horizon. (And not just in the hope that the sun rises tomorrow to bring a bit of light.) We need to look to the horizon and keep striving for a better tomorrow. But we cannot do this blindly. We cannot do this without taking stock and learning from what has placed us in the position we are in.

First. Communication goes a long way. Not once during the Stage 6 load shedding plunge into darkness did a single elected official come out and set the country at ease. There was a boilerplate holding statement Press Release that managed to do the rounds on WhatsApp from Eskom, but there was no dialogue. No reassurance. No face of the crisis to instil confidence and reassurance.

Second. We need to choose our elected officials wisely. The populist agenda is not one that is synonymous with growth and prosperity. If we asked children to vote it would be the candidate who allows sweets for breakfast and not the one advocating for a balanced breakfast. The same goes for the governance of our country and with it, its fragile economy!

It is the responsible decisions that lay the foundation for growth and prosperity which often must forgo short term gains to ensure longterm sustainability and prosperity for all.

It is the governments’ duty to ensure that all its constituents have a better tomorrow to look forward to. And to demonstrate the way in which we must all behave.

We must break the assumption that politicians, elected officials and government representatives are celebrities. In truth, they are the opposite of that. They are public servants; they serve at our behest and must be held accountable for how they spend our money and how they govern our country, to ensure that there is one tomorrow to govern!

Third. We must as a nation not accept this as the new normal. As we strive to advance our society to be globally competitive, we cannot accept this level of corruption and incompetence to continually drag us backwards. Now is the time where we must strive for greatness, where we must throw off the shackles of the status quo and forge new paths forward.

In this case that means looking at power generation as a concept and utilise the natural resources we have which can propel us forward. We have sunshine, wind and wave energy in abundance, how can private / public partnerships unlock these resources to ease the burden and in doing so unlock sustainable and environmentally green power generation?

Power The Economy

The time for pontification is past. The time for populist agenda is gone. We need sustainable economic growth that can place South Africa where it should be and alter the headlines from being perpetually negative!

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