SA electricity crisis bigger than initially anticipated

Trade union Solidarity has warned that the country’s electricity crisis is bigger than initially anticipated and will last for a long time.

The union said that although the crisis was Eskom’s doing, it is in everyone’s interest to keep the lights on, making a public appeal to all South Africans including politicians and public figures to unite to alleviate electricity supply.

Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann said during a press conference in Pretoria on Thursday, that although Solidarity is critical of Eskom, it is loyal to South Africa.

He said that for that reason Solidarity committed itself to a strategy to improve the electricity supply in South Africa.

“Solidarity has a long track record of being critical of Eskom. On many an occasion we have drawn attention to the “cracks” in the Eskom outfit, the most recent instance being the physical cracks in Eskom silos. We are particularly critical of Eskom’s maintenance, its retention of skills and the exodus of staff,” Hermann said.

“Our criticism of Eskom is justified and essential and we will continue our critical stance, but that alone will not suffice to keep the lights on,” the union chief said.

The union called for Eskom’s monopoly over power supply be broken.

“South Africa’s total dependence on Eskom results in major system risk. South Africa should allow more electricity suppliers, reduce the risk of error and allow more inventiveness as far as the supply of electricity is concerned. The market for electric power generation and distribution must be opened up,” it said.

Eskom on Thursday again warned that power supply would be constrained leading into the weekend, having implemented yet another round of load-shedding, on Friday, last week.

Earlier this month a coal storage silo at the Majuba power station in Mpumalanga collapsed, resulting in widespread power cuts. The silo held more than 10 000 tons of coal and affected coal supplies to all six units at the power station.

An investigation into the collapsed silo is underway.

On Tuesday, the power utility reported a profit of R9.3 billion for the first six months of the financial year, down 24% from the R12.2 billion for the same period last year.

The group said it expects a year end profit of R500 million, down from R5.18 billion in 2013.

Eskom also confirmed that it has asked its staff to consider voluntary retrenchment packages amid deepening financial woes.

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SA electricity crisis bigger than initially anticipated