Mailbox: Minister’s electricity projections unrealistic

From BizNews community member Dr Duncan du Bois

It is clear from the instructions and projections issued to the minister of Electricity by the Office of the Presidency that the leadership of this country has not read Andre De Ruyter’s book Truth to Power.

The prescriptive powers of minister Ramokgopa to determine the types of energy sources from which electricity must be generated and the percentage of power from such sources are tragically unrealistic and out of focus.

Read more: Prepaid electricity crisis looms for South Africa

The idea that power from the coal fleet of stations could be ratcheted up to 80% is a case in point. When President Ramaphosa asked De Ruyter the extent to which the energy availability factor of the current coal fleet could be marshalled, De Ruyter told him 70% was out of the question. That is so because the fleet struggles to reach 60% (see pages 129; 188).

Evident from the ministerial thinking is that the 15 coal-burning stations should be regarded as a single entity upon which a given percentage of power can be expected. But that is not the case, as exemplified by Tutuka station near Standerton. Once a star of the fleet,  poor quality coal and a shocking lack of maintenance has reduced Tutuka’s energy availability factor to barely 20%. It now costs more to keep Tutuka running than what it produces. In a free market economy, it would be closed down. But under the ANC regime that is not possible because of entrenched political and tenderpreneural interests (p137).

While the powers of the Electricity Regulation Act may be impressive, they exist in cloud cuckoo land because of the condition of Eskom. They ignore the fact that at any one time 12% of the energy producing factor is shut down for planned maintenance. But what is a primary cause of lead shedding is that 27% of capacity is off the grid as a consequence of unplanned capability loss – that is, sabotage, incompetence, theft (p 188).

Years of neglect have rendered the cooling towers of the Kriel and Matla stations highly ineffective. As a result the steam capacity to drive the turbines is a fraction of what it should be. To fix those towers would take at least three months. But there is neither the workforce nor the money to do that (p 189).

The media narrative on Eskom amounts to pivoting and posturing around inconvenient truths. De Ruyter’s perspective exposes the elephant in the room: “Putting a new farmer in does not automatically make your crops grow when your fields have been exhausted” (p 190).

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