College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Problems at Eskom Identified as a Main Cause of SA’s Energy Crisis

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Corruption and mismanagement at Eskom were highlighted as being among the main causes of the energy crisis in South Africa during a webinar hosted by UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division.

Facilitated by Dr Leigh Jarvis of the University’s School of Engineering, the webinar discussed the country’s ongoing energy crisis, including the rollout of load shedding, which threatens to seriously destabilise the national grid. The aim of the webinar was to search for possible solutions to the crisis.

Speaking on the strife and wide-spread corruption at Eskom, senior mining, energy and legal strategist and tactician Mr Ted Blom said he didn’t foresee Eskom recovering easily from the current crisis.

Blom called for labour, businesses and the public to be represented on the Eskom council to determine the direction of energy supply in the country.

Responding to Blom, UKZN alumnus and Director and CEO of LTM Energy Mr Dhevan Pillay discussed the evolution and advancement of technology, with the focus on moving from a brown economy to a green one.

Cautioning companies about evolving technologies, Pillay said: ‘One has to be cautious about the disruption of technologies and technology advancement – and that goes for Eskom as well. You’ve got to be aware of what is happening.’

He said the storage of energy was a big challenge and also highlighted huge tariff hikes experienced between 1996 and 2001 which more than doubled the cost of electricity in South Africa.

Blom agreed with Pillay on the issue of the technology revolution, saying the country should look further afield than Eskom to solve the energy crisis with micro grids being central to possible solutions.

He identified stoves and geysers as the main energy guzzlers. ‘You can downscale your energy consumption by 75% if you make alternative plans for your cooking and hot water.’ Alternatives included solar power and gas, with indications that South Africa would eventually invest heavily in gas.

Responding to a question on whether the water crisis had a direct impact on the energy crisis, Pillay said water was needed for cooling and power generation at power stations most of which were situated in dry areas.

Blom said with the help of experts, private companies and universities through their research, South Africa was well placed to move away from being Eskom-dependent to being energy independent.

The speakers agreed that there was huge potential in contributors working together. ‘Yes, there is a monopoly called Eskom and yes, they need to be held accountable, but we need to make key decisions and understand what is available, working together to make a difference as we find ways to combine our strengths. I challenge everyone to work together,’ said Pillay.

Jarvis thanked both speakers for their contributions saying it is clear that the solution for the energy crisis is sustainable energy. ‘It’s a golden thread that seems to connect social and economic development with environmental sustainability.’

Acting Executive Director at CRD Ms Normah Zondo thanked speakers for their insights and input. ‘It is clear we will all have to work together to find solutions to overcome this crisis. We are all invested in it,’ said Zondo.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photographs: Supplied