'It's a crisis‚' says Helen Zille about SA’s electricity situation

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
Image: Esa Alexander.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille did not mince her words while speaking about the national electricity situation at the Electricity Summit in Cape Town on Monday.

"We have a crisis‚" Zille said. "It is anything but under control‚ and the most important thing that we have to do is convey honest information to people about where we stand."

Industry experts discussed ways to address the electricity crisis in South Africa that worsened between March 14 and March 23 when stage 4 load-shedding was put in place.

The event brought together members of the Western Cape provincial government‚ the public and the industry‚ notably Eskom.

"The summit [was] about understanding the range of problems and finding solutions rather than apportioning blame‚" said Geoff Jacobs‚ president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce which organised the summit.

Among those who spoke was Eskom’s general manager of the Western Cape‚ Alwie Lester.

"The thing about load-shedding is it really doesn’t help anyone‚" Lester said. "Our systems were never meant to be switched on and off at the rate in which they do."

Eskom was not let off the hook‚ as multiple speakers recommended it be privatised or dissolved altogether.

"The entity is too big‚ too complex‚ too staid in its own way‚" said Lauren Hermanus‚ representing Power Futures South Africa.

"My advisers tell me that Eskom is unsavable‚" Zille added. "I’m sorry Mr Lester‚ that’s what they tell me."

South Africa ranked second to last of 115 countries in the Effective Energy Transitions Index of 2018‚ which evaluates energy affordability and sustainability.

The summit focused on the need to adopt and invest in renewable energy‚ described as more affordable and sustainable.

"We are not asking businesses to take account of these [renewable] energy trends because there’s the reason of load-shedding‚" said Hildegard Fast‚ head of the Energy Security Game Changer in the Western Cape government. "We need to be doing this anyway."

This is yet another challenge for Eskom. Lester told TimesLIVE that Eskom would have to gradually shift its strategy in order to help rebuild SA’s power capacity in the future.

"Just being focused on fossil fuel electricity is not going to be the solution. Eskom will highly likely have to shift towards the energy space where you talk about renewables.

"I think Eskom wants to actively participate in that space‚ but at the moment [we’ve] got operational constraints that [we’re] focusing on."

Eskom already announced a high risk of stage 1 load-shedding last Thursday. Load-shedding is expected to continue into the winter.

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