No magic fix to power struggle

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Brace yourself for more power cuts. Eskom is in crisis and rolling blackouts are upon us again with no solution in sight, at least for now.

There is more than enough blame to go around into what sparked the energy crisis that has plunged parts of the country into darkness for the past five days and possibly for the foreseeable future but no immediate solutions.

"It's going to be a huge struggle ahead of us to actually overcome this crisis," warned public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan at a joint media briefing with Eskom in Rosebank, Johannesburg yesterday.

"We understand the frustration. We don't have a magic formula. This not about whether Pravin Gordhan or [Eskom chairperson] Jabu Mabuza or [Eskom CEO] Phakamani Hadebe single-handedly have a magic wand that can actually enable us to wave that wand and say load-shedding is over."

The power cuts are already reverberating through the economy, threatening everything from investment to job security.

Gordhan said 10 to 12 engineers were currently travelling around SA, visiting power stations to give an "independent" view of what needs to be done to fix Eskom.

But the minister was non committal when asked how long load-shedding will last.

"The direct answer to that question is that we need to complete these investigations and that we will come back to you in the next 10 to 14 days in a similar forum and equally frankly tell you where do we stand on the particular challenges we have."

So who is to blame? Gordhan said there was no room to point fingers. Eskom points out to the disappearance of money that was meant for maintenance of power stations, planned and unplanned shutdowns of generating units, the shortage of diesel to run open gas turbines, and the astonishing problems at new power stations Medupi and Kusile.

There is also the misfortune of the collapse of the power supply imported from Cahora Bassa due to cyclone Idai in Mozambique.

In many ways, this year is beginning to feel just like 2008 with widespread power cuts, frustrated households and gridlocked roads. Perhaps now is the time to stock up on the candles, firewood and flashlights.

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