The five men who improved Eskom and stopped load-shedding

 ·1 Jul 2024

Five men played a big role in improving Eskom’s performance and helped stop load-shedding for three months.

These men are Electricity Minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa, Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati, CFO Calib Cassim, CEO Dan Marokane, and generation executive Bheki Nxumalo.

Over the last three months, South Africans have experienced something they have not seen since 2021—three months of uninterrupted power supply.

Load-shedding has been suspended for over three months. The last time it happened was between 23 July 2021 and 06 October 2021.

Eskom explained that the improved performance results from effectively executing its Generation Operational Recovery Plan.

This plan was implemented to improve the reliability of the Eskom generation fleet to limit load-shedding this winter.

The plan included increased planned maintenance during the summer months of 2023 and 2024 to an average of 8,000 MW.

Eskom said between December 2023 and January 2024, it reached an average of 18% of the generation capacity under maintenance.

The power utility said this strategy achieved the desired results, which allowed it to suspend load-shedding for over three months.

Although there is still a high likelihood of load-shedding this winter, it will not reach the same high levels as previous years.

Eskom’s Unplanned Capacity Loss Factor (UCLF) decreased to 27.4% in this financial year, and its energy availability factor (EAF) increased to 61.2%.

“Our generation’s performance continues to surpass this year’s winter forecast. The current unplanned outages remain at an average of 12,000 MW,” Eskom said.

The weekly EAF has moved from 57.0% at the beginning of the financial year to 62.2% from 17 June to 20 June 2024.

“The EAF improvement is primarily due to a drop in the unplanned outages of the generation units, averaging 11,800 MW during the past seven days,” Eskom said.

Many people speculated that load-shedding would return after the election and that Eskom kept the lights on by burning diesel. These rumours were false.

From 1 April 2024 to 20 June 2024, Eskom spent R2.71 billion on OCGTs, producing 390 GWh to meet demand.

This is 67% less than the R8.26 billion spent from 1 April 2023 to 20 June 2023 to produce 1,354 GWh.

The reality is that load-shedding was suspended because of lower demand and increased reliability of Eskom’s generation fleet.

Eskom chairperson Mteto Nyati said Eskom’s performance improvement was made possible by leadership changes, its maintenance plan, and great execution.

One of the key management changes at Eskom was the appointment of Bheki Nxumalo as the power utility’s generation executive.

After he was appointed, Nxumalo reviewed Eskom’s plant managers and other senior employees at its power stations.

This has resulted in extensive changes to the leadership at some of the utility’s worst-performing power stations.

Another big change was how Eskom performed maintenance. The new plan, approved in March 2023, used original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Previously, maintenance was performed by companies with little knowledge of Eskom’s generation units. Breakdowns soon after maintenance was completed were common.

Original equipment manufacturers, in comparison, have extensive knowledge about the equipment used at Eskom’s power plants.

Nyati said that maintenance, in partnership with OEMs, ensured that generating units returned to service were reliable and would not break down quickly.

One should also not discount Ramokgopa’s impact. He provided the political support needed to improve Eskom’s performance.

Since being appointed Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity in March 2023, he has regularly visited power stations to support Eskom employees.

He also provided regular updates about the progress of South Africa’s Energy Action Plan (EAP), which aims to end load-shedding and achieve energy security.

Here is a look at the five men who significantly improved Eskom’s performance and helped to stop load-shedding for three months.

Electricity Minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa

Kgosientso Ramokgopa was appointed the Minister in the Presidency responsible for electricity on 6 March 2023.

He oversees all aspects of the government’s response to the ongoing electricity crisis, which includes Eskom’s performance.

During the last fifteen months, Ramokgopa regularly visited Eskom’s power plants and met with managers and other employees.

He also provided the much-needed political support for Eskom to conduct its affairs without undue interference from its main shareholder.

Ramokgopa promised South Africa that load-shedding would be reduced in 2024, and that is exactly what happened.

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati has been instrumental in improving Eskom’s performance since his appointment on 1 November 2023.

His appointment as Eskom chairman was widely welcomed because he was an engineer with extensive business experience.

After he became chairman, he visited power stations, spoke to managers, and created a comprehensive turnaround plan.

The results of this turnaround plan, implemented in March 2023, are now showing in Eskom’s performance.

Eskom generation executive Bheki Nxumalo

Bheki Nxumalo was appointed Eskom’s group executive for generation in April 2023. He has extensive experience in operations, power station management, and production.

Before this role, he was Eskom Enterprise and Eskom Rotek Industries CEO and served as station manager at two power plants.

Less than a year after he was appointed, Eskom saw a significant performance improvement and a prolonged break in load-shedding.

Nyati singled out Nxumalo as the main person helping to address Eskom’s generation challenges and stop load-shedding.

Former Eskom acting CEO Calib Cassim

An unsung hero in Eskom’s performance is Calib Cassim, appointed interim chief executive after Andre de Ruyter’s sudden departure in early 2023.

Under his leadership, Eskom stabilised its declining energy availability factor and started to improve towards the end of his tenure. It was the first improvement in five years.

South Africa got through the 2023 winter months better than expected, with lower-than-planned demand and improved generating capacity.

When he handed the reins to Dan Marokane, the power utility was on an upward trajectory thanks to the implementation of the recovery plan.

Eskom CEO Dan Marokane

Eskom’s performance under new chief executive Dan Marokane has improved dramatically, with fewer breakdowns and a much higher energy availability factor.

Marokane, a qualified chemical and petroleum engineer who previously served as a group executive at the power utility, took over on 1 March 2024.

He continued the good work under Cassim’s leadership. Breakdowns are lower, maintenance has improved, and Eskom’s EAF is rising rapidly.

He said Eskom plans to increase its energy availability factor (EAF) to 70% in the next 12 to 36 months.

“We will also future-proof the organisation to enable energy security, growth, and long-term sustainability for South Africa,” he said.

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