Confusion and controversy surround roles of Ministers in Eskom’s recovery efforts

Parliament’s Standing Committee for Public Accounts (Scopa) has revealed confusion surrounding the roles of Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in addressing Eskom’s challenges. Gordhan claims Ramokgopa collaborates directly with Eskom’s power generation head, Bheki Nxumalo, while sources suggest communication is routed through Gordhan and the Eskom board. Alleged promises of power station staff bonuses by Ramokgopa have raised concerns. Amid this, Eskom launches its Battery Energy Storage System to combat the energy crisis, but challenges persist, including an unstable grid and illegal connections accounting for 28% of unplanned outages.

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Eskom power struggle

By Bradley Prior

Parliament’s standing committee for public accounts (Scopa) has brought to light confusion over the roles of Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in fixing Eskom, reports the City Press.

Responding to questions at a Scopa meeting, Gordhan said Ramokgopa works directly with Eskom’s head of power generation, Bheki Nxumalo, to ensure power stations perform better and implement the presidency’s emergency power plan.

However, one source disputed this, claiming that Ramokgopa’s only way of communicating with Nxumalo is through Gordhan and the Eskom board.

Furthermore, the DA’s Alf Lees claimed Scopa members were surprised by Gordhan’s statements — and Ramokgopa’s promises of bonuses for power station staff.

Then, according to Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena, Ramokgopa’s visits to power stations were postponed without reason “even before the meeting was over.”

“It is clear that Gordhan was embarrassed and, therefore, took action to stop Ramokgopa’s interference in Eskom’s affairs,” said Lees.

“The cancellation of the power station tour is a clear sign of the chaos that is going on, instead of clear guidance on power generation and the management of the state enterprise and energy.”

In response to Mokwena’s statement, Ramokgopa said his visits have not been postponed; instead, his schedule has been ‘revised’.

Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Public Enterprises.

Ramokgopa fights back

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa then allegedly complained about the red tape to the ANC National Working Committee (NWC) last week and said he has no insight into the Eskom board.

Gordhan also appeared before the NWC, where he was reportedly criticised for his and the board’s inconsistent reports regarding the electricity crisis.

The NWC has now instructed the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to determine Ramokgopa’s exact powers.

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Minister of Electricity.

New project launched

Amid all the drama, in its attempts to solve the energy crisis, Eskom recently launched the first part of its Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at Hex substation in Worcester, Western Cape.

This system is designed to store 100MWh of energy — enough to supply a small town like Mossel Bay with five hours of electricity.

“During the construction of the Hex BESS site, 250 residents of the greater Worcester area were employed,” Eskom stated.

“The overall project is co-financed by the African Development Bank, the New Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Clean Technology Fund and constructed by Hyosung Heavy Industries as well as local subcontractors.”

Illegal connections

However, Eskom continues to face numerous challenges, including its unstable grid and illegal connections that reduce electricity sales.

According to Eskom, 28% of all unplanned outages between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023 were caused by theft, vandalism, and illegal connections.

“Illegal connections impact Eskom’s revenue negatively in the sense that illegally connected customers or members of the public consume electricity without paying for it, and they also damage the Eskom electricity distribution infrastructure, which then requires fixing,” it said.

“The overall energy theft for the 2022–23 Financial Year non-technical losses is 13,396GWh and is equivalent to R5,607,441,692.”

“This energy theft figure is inclusive of other significant contributors such as meter tampering, illegal electricity sales or vending, illegal network construction, illicit meter installations and material theft,” Eskom added.

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This article was first published by MyBroadBand and is republished with permission

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