Eskom COO’s urgent plea: stop talking, start building

Jan Oberholzer

Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer has pleaded for an end to talk shops and for an urgent start to building new generation capacity if South Africa is to avoid a long-term crippling electricity supply crisis.

During a media briefing on Wednesday, in which Eskom provided an update on the performance of its system, TechCentral asked Oberholzer whether he believes government is taking Eskom’s repeated pleas for an additional 4-6GW of generation capacity on an urgent basis seriously enough.

TechCentral also asked the Eskom executive what more government should be doing to ensure that this generation gap is plugged as soon as possible.

Oberholzer said he “sincerely believes” that government is taking the situation seriously – and this was evidenced by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s acknowledgement of the generation shortfall, and the urgent need to address it, in his state-of-the-nation address.

However, he also made it clear that the time for talking is over and that South Africa must urgently invest in new generation capacity if it is to head off a crisis.

“For Eskom to be able to continue with reliability maintenance, we need additional capacity to be able to take our units offline,” he said. Beyond this, Eskom will retire more than half of its generation capacity over the next decade and a half.

22GW to be retired

Eskom will retire coal-fired generators that produce 10GW of electricity within the next eight years, Oberholzer said. Over the next 13 years, by 2035, this figure will jump to 22GW as Eskom retires nine of its ageing coal stations.

Over and above the current 4-6GW deficit, he said South Africa will need to build 40-50GW of new generating capacity in the next 13-15 years. And the country must realise that it will be facing competition from the rest of the world for equipment and resources while it embarks on this challenge.

“This is the ideal opportunity to grow the economy by starting manufacturing, etc. We need to do it as a collective, as SA Inc … [including] the mines and energy-intensive users,” Oberholzer said.

“As SA Inc, we need to understand what the challenges are and work together [to solve them]. If we just continue talking … we will find ourselves wanting. It is important we all work together to understand the challenges with the current deficit, and then what we will be retiring and what will be required to grow the economy. We need to stop talking, and as South Africa we really need to rise to this challenge that is facing us.”  – © 2022 NewsCentral Media