Johannesburg – Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer says the national power grid has been abused for long, and the country now suffers the consequences.
“For at least 10 years the approach has been to provide electricity at all costs. We can’t get away from the consequences of that, and we now face an unreliable, unpredictable national grid,” Oberholzer said.
Sources inside Eskom have said a combination of failing and old systems and infrastructure, adverse weather conditions and maintenance backlogs is to blame for power outages.
Oberholzer said efforts to stabilise the grid and effect repairs are showing progress, but that it is too slow.
On Tuesday Eskom announced that load shedding moved from stage four to three, and then from stage three to stage two. Eskom implemented stage six load shedding on Monday, the first time ever the system reached the critical level.
Oberholzer implored government and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to open the grid up in order to allow competitors to supply the energy shortage that Eskom cannot provide.
“Our biggest problem is that we have no time and space to take turbines and power stations out of the system for long enough to do proper maintenance and repair. Given the demand there simply isn’t any opportunity except to quickly take it out for a short period and then return it to service. We simply cannot do what is needed,” he said.
Oberholzer added that government must do more to help Eskom in meeting the country’s energy demands. He also said it cannot only be Eskom that is responsible for electricity and energy generation.
“We have two problems, our system has become unreliable. Secondly it has become old and difficult to maintain and repair. But we’re going to have to do it. We need permanent solutions to Eskom’s problems, and up to now we haven’t had any permanent solutions put on the table,” he said.
He is confident that Eskom’s managers and technical experts will be able to manage the current strains on the grid. “We need time and space to do repairs to those units and power stations that need it; but that is something we don’t have,” he said.