EXCLUSIVE: Brian Molefe says Gordhan and Ramaphosa must take responsibility for Eskom crisis
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FORMER Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the leadership of both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan's handling of the country's energy crisis.
South Africa was again plunged into Stage 4 load shedding this week. Eskom is expected to lift Stage 4 load shedding at the weekend, with Stage 2 load shedding expected to remain throughout the weekend.
In an exclusive interview with Independent Media, Molefe questioned the latest bout of load shedding implemented by the power utility, and warned that the state-owned enterprise was not being managed properly.
He said that Parliament and the governing party must hold both Ramaphosa and Gordhan accountable for the problems at Eskom.
He warned that if one more unit tripped this week the country could be plunged into stage 6 load shedding, with seven units already out.
During last week when Eskom started stage 2 load shedding it said the reason was an incident in Zambia. Molefe questioned this incident, saying Eskom had not explained what it was.
He blamed the media and the public for not holding Eskom to account for exactly what the incident in Zambia was. He also decried the fact that the seven units that were supposed to return to service on Monday would now only return on Friday, and that there was no accountability for this.
“What incident in Zambia can cause load shedding in South Africa?” asked Molefe, adding that Eskom must explain this incident to the public.
He said during his time at Eskom there was no load shedding because the system was properly managed.
“There is a certain thing called the energy availability factor (EAS). If you have 100MW and you are producing 80MW, it means your availability factor is 80%. The question is, what is the EAS of our Eskom fleet? The EAS of the Eskom fleet is 61%. To stop load shedding 75% of our fleet has to be available. That is the reason we are having load shedding,” said Molefe.
“When I joined Eskom the EAS was 69% and we increased it to 81% and we stopped load shedding,” he said.
He said that when another former chief executive, Matshela Koko, left Eskom the EAS was 81%, but had since deteriorated to 61%.
“Since the new crop came it has deteriorated. Last week there was a statement from Eskom that they need R11 billion for maintenance, but they have been given R6bn. However, the problem is not the fleet, but management and budgeting,” he said.
He said that Eskom said stage 4 would end at 5am on Friday, and this was very surprising. He also said it was surprising that Eskom was very precise about when exactly the seven units that were supposed to return on Monday would now return on Friday.
“How do they know they will return on Friday?” he asked.
He said the power utility was not honest with the public to cover for the alleged incompetence of its management.
“The reason we are load shedding at the moment is because the management is incompetent,” he said.
Molefe also questioned the use of renewable energy and maintained that coal and nuclear were still reliable baseload sources of energy.
He said that wind and solar energy were intermittent and were not helpful during load shedding.
“The sun is available during the day, and not at night. When there is cloud cover, solar energy does not contribute to the generation of electricity. The wind and solar technologies are still being developed, they are a work in progress and we cannot rely on them in a crisis such as we are experiencing at the moment, particularly because the storage of wind and solar energy and the scale that is required to deal with our problems at the moment is not available,” said Molefe.
He also said South Africa had enough baseload energy capacity but Eskom was not able to manage it properly.
“Demand for electricity on a day like this is 32 000MW. We have more capacity than we need and we are even building more and we can’t meet 32 000MW.
“As we are sitting here about 15 000MW is not available because of breakdowns. Why? Because the fleet is not maintained properly. The way we must fix this thing is that the CEO must be given a target of energy availability of 75%.
“If they can’t reach that target they must shift. We took it to 81% four years ago. We did it in six months. I arrived at Eskom in April 2015 and there was load shedding and on August 8 2015 load shedding stopped for a couple years. I think this is a management problem,” said Molefe.
He said the solution was not to sell Eskom, but to manage it better.
Molefe’s comments come against mounting anger from the public and business over the latest bout of load shedding.
The Black Business Council called for the heads of Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter and those of the board.
Speaking in Soweto on Monday, Ramaphosa described the move to stage 4 load shedding as a calamity. He also called for Eskom to oversee a restructure inwhich it would be allowed to procure power from other suppliers.