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Eskom needs to take advantage of the energy transition

Eskom Group CEO André de Ruyter wants “greater support from law enforcement authorities to see more people in orange overalls” and the utility to take advantage of the world’s energy transition.

Speaking during the Enlit Africa keynote opening session, de Ruyter said the utility “would have liked to see greater support from law enforcement authorities to see more people in orange overalls” as the organisation is clamping down on corruption.

He gave an exclusive update on the progress that is being made on the five-point turnaround plan for South Africa’s national utility, stating that they are “holding people accountable” and is making progress “from a corruption perspective and a consequence management perspective: “We have seen some Eskom employees being disciplined, being arrested, money being attached and forfeited to the state, people that we have caught for engaging in corrupt activities. Have we won the war as yet? No. But I think more and more the signal is getting out to those miscreants who are seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of South Africa and Eskom, that crime doesn’t pay, and that we will get them in the end.”

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Eskom Group CEO André de Ruyter in an interview with Enlit Africa content director Claire Volkwyn.

The Eskom five-point recovery plan includes achieving operational stability, improving income statements, strengthening the balance sheet, embarking on organisational restructuring and improving the culture.

In a frank conversation with Enlit Africa’s content director, Claire Volkwyn, de Ruyter said operationally, the organisation was also doing better: “It’s a new initiative, visible, leadership boots on the floor. We are insisting that our power station managers don’t manage from behind the desk, but rather go out and lead from the front.”

Africa’s energy transition: Eskom’s share in emissions

The Eskom GCE further reported that from an income statement perspective, the utility was making good progress. “Sales have recovered remarkably well. After the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a big decrease in our sales over the last financial year. But this year to date, I have to say that sales have recovered very strongly, which is a good sign for the economy overall. So demand is strong.”

Enlit Africa has a strong focus on the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), taking place in Scotland in November, and de Ruyter also addressed Africa’s energy transition and the role that Eskom is expected to play in what many feel should be a ‘just energy transition,’ considering, in particular, how the coal industry will be affected.

“As Eskom”, he explained, “we are responsible for about 25% of African carbon emissions; so, we are a very significant contributor to the carbon footprint of the continent. If we are able to show the way to a cleaner and greener energy future, I think there’s a real opportunity for us to demonstrate that.”

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Digital event in the run-up to COP26

The three-day Enlit Africa digital programme looks at various ways to achieve this; from LNG as a transitional energy source, municipal energy independence, e-mobility, and how Africa is preparing for, and what it is expecting from, the COP26 summit.

“For all of Africa, it is important that we start with a clear signal to the world that we are ready to start the implementation of the Paris Agreement, we are ready to go into action,” was the declaration of Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, chairman of the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change, who will represent the continent’s 56 nations at COP26 in Scotland next month.

As part of the Enlit Africa keynote session, the Gabonese climate negotiator explained Africa’s position at the climate conference, saying the continent is not responsible for the current situation: “Even if reducing emissions is very important, we also need to be clear and say to the world that Africa has very low emissions, but we already feel climate change in our towns and in our cities. For us, it’s to help us to fight against all the consequences of climate change,” said Gahouma-Bekale.

Africa could use COP26 to launch the continent’s energy transition

“For Africa, the two priorities are to stop the rise of emissions, because today, we are really far from the 1.5°C or the 2°C, which are the targets of the Paris Agreement. All the NDCs (nationally determined contributions) already released this year, prove that we will continue to emit 10% more in 10 years; but we need to reduce that by 40% in 10 years, as we cannot deal with that in Africa where we are already facing some amazing disasters,” said Gahouma-Bekale

During Tuesday morning’s last keynote discussion, the African Development Bank’s Haruperi Mumbengegwi, a legal expert in the power sector, and Faith Odongo, Senior Deputy Director of Renewable Energy at the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, discussed how COP26 could provide the launchpad for Africa’s energy transition, including efforts by the Kenyan government to support sustainable energy and address issues around clean cooking.

Enlit Africa is the unifying brand for African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa.
Follow the latest conversation during the digital event from 26-28 October 2021.

Annemarie Roodbol
Annemarie Roodbol is a communications practitioner based in Cape Town.

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