Medupi Power Station. Pic credit. Reinart Toerien. EWN

Encouraged by the prospect that the new Eskom board can save state-owned power utility Eskom from unravelling completely, Ted Blom, an independent energy expert, chats with ESI Africa to give his views on the Parliamentary Eskom inquiry and more.

Anoj Singh taking the hot seat at Eskom inquiry

In Anoj Singh’s defence, Blom says that as an industry expert Singh has an advantage over the lead inquirer, Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara. “Whilst one is not happy with his [Singh] performance in denying and refuting the so called allegations, the fact of the matter is the questions are not put to him properly, if you don’t ask the right question then don’t expect the correct answer,” says Blom.

“And certainly in terms of his reply to advising Mrs Brown whether Trillian had a contract with Eskom or not, he answered negative, he said no, Trillian didn’t have a contract and technically he was 100% correct.” AUDIO: Listen to the full Eskom inquiry interview on YouTube

What of Matshela Koko refusing to resign?

“Koko has got a legacy of misdemeanours at Eskom in fact he should have been fired for the first ones,” says Blom who explains that Koko also has the facts at his fingertips to respond during the inquiry but does so in a completely different style from that of Singh.

“Their style is very different and I think in a court of law we will get far better results. Remember this is a public forum, this is a commission of inquiry not a commission of allegations like a normal court would be,” explains Blom.

Alluding to the purpose of the Eskom inquiry commission, which is to uncover the extent of corruption at Eskom, Blom states that even those who have given excellent testimony at the inquiry are not completely innocent themselves: “Even the people who are crying foul at Eskom are also not completely innocent … They also have a history and that history needs to be put on the table – its thief accusing thief here.”

Blom surmises that Koko is probably hanging onto his job because, unlike Singh who’s a chartered accountant and likely to get another job elsewhere – Koko is an expert in the power industry and won’t easily find another job in South Africa. “That’s for sure, that’s why he is hanging on for dear life. He’s on a salary of more R4 million [$336k] a year.”

Did you know? Ted Blom is an advisory board member and guest speaker of the African Utility Week conference and exhibition in Cape Town in May 2018. Register to attend to meet with Blom and a host of industry experts gathered from around the world to discuss energy, power and water solutions.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s nuclear power comment

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the South African deputy president stated that South Africa can ill afford nuclear power.

“Ramaphosa, if he was fully aware of the fact of the situation should have said South Africa cannot afford any additional power because there is surplus power,” At the current trajectory, Blom explains that by 2022 the country will have more than 60GW of installed generation capacity; however, currently power consumption is declining.

“We are going to be paying for the power capacity that will not be used so there is no scope for any additional power, let alone nuclear, to be added to the grid because already we are paying more than double the capacity we are actually physically able to use and that makes the South African economy a laughing stock in the African continent.” Read more: S.Africa: topic of affordability slams nuclear viability

Water crisis in South Africa

Water is a central governance issue, and integral to South Africa’s bulk resource management is the Lesotho Water Highlands project – which is more than 10 years behind schedule.

The project should have commenced in 1994, however at the time the country was in a period of transition with a new government and new president who had other pressing matters.

There are similarities in the predictions between the energy and water sectors, states Blom: “As I predicted five years ago that Eskom would be bankrupt at this stage of the game, people who know the water scenario had predicted the shortage of water for a long time in Cape Town.”

Day Zero not exclusive to Cape Town

Blom warns that within the next 12 months Gauteng will be without water as well because the Lesotho highlands scheme hasn’t been completed. On a positive note, the energy expert believes that Eskom’s more than 10GW of power can be made available at 35 cents per kWh to power a desalination plant.

“The only problem with desalination plant is that it’s very power intensive and under the normal scenario if Eskom is charging Cape Town more than R2/kwh then that becomes a very expensive option,” explains Blom.

According to Blom, the City of Cape Town could negotiate a lower tariff specifically to power desalination plants to sort out the immediate crisis. There are options to get plug and play desalination plants within 60 days to avoid the crisis. “There is no need for anyone to go thirsty in the Cape Town crisis,” states Blom.

 

Featured image: Eskom’s Medupi Power Station. Pic credit Reinart Toerien. EWN

African Utility Week