Does Eskom think the public are stupid? – Ted Blom on load shedding in SA

Energy expert and mining consultant Ted Blom is never one to shirk from controversy and hasn’t been doing so recently. While South African’s shudder at the thought of load shedding, Blom reckons that Eskom isn’t telling us the entire truth. He spoke to BizNews founder Alec Hogg about the reality of load shedding in SA. Blom tweeted earlier in the week that there was a shortfall of 5,136 megawatts. Blom says this would require Level 6 load shedding to handle this. – Jarryd Neves

Ted Blom on load shedding:

Let’s go back a little bit. Because I had operating models of Eskom from 30 years ago, I’ve updated them a little bit – in terms of costing and reliability – and I’ve taken it upon myself to warn the public of South Africa whenever load shedding is imminent. I’ve been doing so for more than 10 years and with a lot of luck, I’ve been nearly spot-on every time. Last Sunday, I warned people that load shedding [will be] imminent in the week ahead.

On Tuesday I went out and I said, “well, I’d be surprised if it’s not worse than level 4 load shedding.” Lo and behold, Eskom kept it at level two. I was totally perplexed by this because, as I said, I’ve yet to be proven wrong. So, I did a quick poll on Thursday night at 10:00 PM. I asked people from around the country to share their experiences with me. My daughter, who lives in Sandton, had six hours of load shedding – which certainly doesn’t fit into any of the Eskom schedules.

By seven o’clock on Friday morning, I had my results and that was throughout the country. There were numerous people – over 50. I don’t claim to be a balanced poll, but I didn’t want a balanced poll, I just wanted confirmation. All these people not only gave me their load shedding experiences (which were horrific), but those that I doubted, I asked them to send me their schedules. The schedules didn’t correlate with the experiences. I then went out and said, “well, somebody’s lying to us”. 

I got hold of the operating stats. Notwithstanding that they only declared level two – which is a lie because there’s over 2,000 megawatts – and if you know the regulations level 2 load shedding is up to 2,000 megawatts. They’ve been consistently underreporting that for more than a year. I found out that the system shortfall was 5,136 megawatts on Wednesday evening. I’ve had that the fight with Eskom previously – Eskom then told everybody that they don’t count voluntary load shedding.

My argument is [that] it’s still a cost to the country. It’s no use having voluntary load shedding behind the scenes with certain heavy industries, and then people wonder why they’re shedding jobs and disinvesting. It’s because they can’t face the cost of load shedding. On that basis – and the polls that I had – I called them up. I maintain my facts. 

On changes in the government’s attitude to power generation:

On the basis of the dire failing of government and the ANC in particular – because they hold the levers of government – to satisfy the energy needs of this country. I’m on record of saying open up the grid, because otherwise you’re going to lose our heavy industry. The only company that purportedly has made some progress on getting a deviation from the caps set – and there are really artificial caps which are now under the control of Minister Mantashe – is Goldfields.

And Goldfields, as you will recall, also gave a lot of shares and benefits to certain senior ANC politicians. I don’t know if they had to do the same thing again to get their allocation, but it’s totally preposterous that we can’t get access to energy. Then they still expect new companies to come and invest. I get enquiries regularly from overseas companies. My message to them is, “don’t be mad, you’re nuts to think you’re going to invest and have access to power.” It’s not possible. As we go forward, even under the new Eskom management, it’s getting less possible every year.

On solar energy in South Africa:

It’s going to harm Eskom, but not not entirely. I think people only addressing half of the cake. I’m sitting in Joburg, where it’s pretty overcast and there’s no wind blowing. I don’t know how you’re going to get renewable energy into the grid that’s dispatchable. Those who tout the option of batteries, I can boldly say that I’ve just done the research for my paper that I’m going to deliver next Monday to see where the storage industry is.

I’m assured that there is not one utility sized battery available, anywhere in the world. The stuff that Eskom wants to do is experimental stuff. Solar might be cheap, but if it’s not available it doesn’t help the case at all. That’s part of the renewable lie that’s been touted around South Africa. It might be a solution for those touting renewable energy, but it’s not going to help the end consumer because you can be penalised through the roof for when you’re in need of dire energy.

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