The possibility of load shedding by Eskom in South Africa
this winter is larger than the Day Zero water crisis that engulfed Cape Town
until last month, independent energy expert Ted Blom told Fin24 on Wednesday.
Eskom, however, told Parliament in April that South Africa's
electricity grid is "stable" as the country heads into the winter
months when electricity usage rises.
Blom said Cape Town's Day Zero was avoided by people
starting to save water ahead of time. Eskom, on the other hand, only sent out
tenders for emergency coal supplies last week after permission was obtained
from National Treasury.
Although Eskom's new board is trying to follow compliance in
the process, Blom claims the power utility's management should have foreseen
six months ago already that there would be a problem with enough coal supplies
for the winter electricity spike.
Apart from his own knowledge of the industry, said Blom, his
claims are substantiated by reliable sources at Eskom.
"Chances are more than 50% that there will be load
shedding this winter. Where is Eskom going to find coal? Coal does not just
fall out of heaven. You have to mine it. You need skilled miners and equipment
for that," he said.
He suspects Eskom has a coal shortfall of about a million
tonnes per month and is of the view that, even when all is in place to obtain
more coal supplies, it will take three to five months to catch up on the
backlog - in other words, during the winter period.
Eskom issued a statement in April indicating that seven of
its power stations’ coal stockpile levels stood at 20 days, below the required
Eskom told Parliament's portfolio committee on public
enterprises that the coal supply issues are made worse by the fact that Tegeta
is in business rescue.
It also told Parliament in April that it has plans in place
to manage its primary energy resources and achieve healthy stockpiles across
its power stations.
"Eskom has already admitted that it is between 3 and 5
million tonnes of coal short. That is more than half of its stockpiles,"
"Eskom's board now consists of a lovely bunch of new
guys, but they don't know anything about the electricity industry. At least
half of Eskom's board should consist of people with knowledge of electricity
generation and coal mining.
"Electricity is crucial for South Africa's economy and
diesel has already been used for generation since January at a rate of more
than R1bn per month."
In Blom's view, South Africa's energy sector needs a major
revamp in which regulation loopholes are closed.
"If Cyril (Ramaphosa) is serious, he should upgrade
energy generation regulations and avoid rogue behaviour in the industry,"
In his view, energy needs to be declared a basic industrial
input factor and every measure taken to keep it as cheap as possible.