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Independent energy expert Ted Blom, says “the possibility of load shedding is larger than the Day Zero water crisis that engulfed Cape Town until last month.”

Speaker and advisory board member at African Utility Week in May, shares his views on current developments in the energy sector.

Let’s start with your views on the current coal situation at Eskom.
According to my estimates the situation is dire, and it does not help that Eskom is in denial. Eskom top management have been caught sleeping at the wheel again, or are still involved with the Guptas – who, I am tipped off, still have fingers in the Eskom coal supply chain as of last week.

Of Eskom’s 11 Mpumalanga stations (excluding Kusile still under construction), Eskom has admitted that nine are in trouble. Eskom has tried to appease the public that coal is being transhipped from the balance of the stations – but that only can only be from the remaining two stations. Also, the OCGT (Eskom’s last resort) has been running for weeks.

It does not help for Eskom to make comments such as “all hands on deck” or similar calls for acquiescence – this development is criminal and the third time in 10 years, with empty promises after each event that “this will not be allowed to happen again”.

Is there a chance that we can have load shedding this coming winter?
Without wanting to create a panic, the possibility of load shedding is larger than the Day Zero water crisis that engulfed Cape Town until last month.

What in your view is the above symptomatic of at Eskom?
It is clear to any senior Eskom’s analysts, that the current Eskom model, as evolved since the change in Eskom status from “non-profit” to “for profit” in 2001, is not working. All that has happened is that electricity prices have ballooned and killed off the energy intensive in export industries of SA.

Additionally, Eskom must be the only major company where productivity has gone backwards by around 40% or more in the last two decades. It is just unbelievable and totally unsustainable. Hence the politically appointed masters at Eskom should be lynched for their incompetence in running a crucial cog in the SA economy into the ground. Read more: Eskom in discussions with Optimum Coal Mine, no agreement reached

And of our energy sector?
It has become very clear that the whole energy sector policy is, firstly, out of sync with the reality on the ground, and then furthermore, disjointed and contradictory as far as broad policy is concerned. No government could have done more to destroy the SA economy if they tried.

You are a featured speaker at the upcoming African Utility Week’s generation programme, with a presentation entitled: Energy Roadmap, an independent perspective – can you give us a preview of what your message will be?
In brief terms, any roadmap has to start from the current reality, – hence cutting and pasting from other countries does not work. From there, one needs to declare energy a basic industrial ingredient or input factor and take every measure to keep it as cheap as possible. These are crucial ingredients in any Energy Strategy.

Other topics in this same session focus on how Power Pools are collaborating and least-cost planning options. What are your expectations from the panel discussion that you are part of that will close the session?
I look forward to the panel discussion. There is vast potential for a well-structured power pool, and if renewables are going to be embraced, an expansive pool is a sine quo non to ensure availability.

Anything else you would like to add?
Sensible Energy Policy is probably the most relevant topic in Africa at this time, and the SA policy is clearly NOT the one to emulate. We need to start our thinking from the GROUND up, rather than continue with the patchwork efforts of the past. Without affordable cheap energy, economic growth is NOT possible.

During African Utility Week’s generation conference in Cape Town from 15-17 May, Blom will present an “Energy Roadmap – an independent perspective”.

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African Utility Week