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SA must stop relying on Eskom's 'failing monopoly', say experts

Experts say the time has come for South Africans to move away from Eskom for its energy needs.
Experts say the time has come for South Africans to move away from Eskom for its energy needs.
Image: 123RF/choneschones

Eskom is failing - and a successful South Africa depends on moving on to other power suppliers.

This is the view of energy experts, as the embattled power utility announced on Monday evening that stage 6 load-shedding would be implemented for the first time - meaning longer and more frequent periods of rotational power cuts.

"We've never been in stage 6 load-shedding before. It's a very serious state of affairs. It's uncharted territory," said expert Chris Yelland.

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"It's going to be very frustrating for customers and businesses - and very bad for the economy. We're likely to experience negative growth in the last quarter of the year, which is going to push us into a recession.

"This is bad for jobs, for the economy, for business, for everything. It's not a good place to be," he added.

For Yelland, the solution was to move away from Eskom as much as possible. "At the moment we are heavily overexposed to a failing monopoly. If it were not too big to fail, it has already failed," he said.

"What we've got to do is to reduce the risk by reducing our dependence on a failing utility. That means we need to diversify generation sources away from our current dependence on one source of electricity."

Wet coal, due to ongoing rain and flooding in Mpumalanga, has been largely blamed for the shift to stage 6. Yelland said moving away from coal, which is used for 85% of power generation in SA, was vital.

"We need to move away from being heavily dependent on coal. It's unreliable - that's what we're seeing as we speak. All our eggs are in the coal basket. We need different sources of energy: gas, wind, solar, biomass, biogas - anything but coal," he said.

Another energy expert, Ted Blom, put the blame squarely on fraud, corruption and corner-cutting at Eskom.

"They bought up to 50% or 60% fine coal, and they should be buying no more than 10% fine coal because as soon as it gets wet it has problems - like they are talking about now," said Blom.

"This is all a result of the fraud and corruption at Eskom."

Blom added that while South Africa was definitely in the red, it was still possible to salvage the situation.

"There is no quick solution. What would be required is dedicated working and responsible management by Eskom."