South Africa’s power utility Eskom described the performance of its generation division as unsatisfactory and said that the unit’s acting head had quit.
The company has failed to reach targets to improve output from the plants, Jan Oberholzer, Eskom’s chief operating officer, said in a presentation on Tuesday, during which he announced Rhulani Mathebula’s resignation.
The continent’s most-industrialised nation has been subjected to record power outages this year, mainly due to breakdowns at Eskom’s old coal-fired units plants that make up the backbone of its generation capacity. The utility’s so-called energy availability factor, a measurement of how much capacity can be utilised, has consistently fallen over recent years and currently stands at 59%, but there are plans to increase it to more than 70% from March 2024 as some older plants are closed.
“We really need to get our hands on this unreliability and unpredictability,” Oberholzer said.
Mathebula took over as Eskom’s acting head of generation in May after the previous executive, Phillip Dukashe, quit the post.
The outages have curbed South Africa’s economic growth. Eskom implemented 5 761 gigawatt hours of power cuts — locally known as loadshedding — through September, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research said in a report on Monday. That compares with 2 521 gigawatt hours of cuts last year, which was a record at the time.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced emergency measures earlier in the year to address the energy crisis, but plans to add capacity and buying excess electricity from companies are running behind schedule.
Eskom has said that as much as 6 000 megawatts of additional capacity is needed to stabilise the grid and has long called for more private generation.
The utility has been forced to run turbines — intended for use during time of peak demand — that run on diesel in order to mitigate the amount of power cuts. Eskom spent more than R11 billion through October, more than it planned, on the fuel in the first 10 months of the year, and Oberholzer warned of even deeper power cuts if its budget runs out.
“We need additional capacity in the country the day before yesterday,” he said.