The next Eskom crisis

The sombre mood of economic growth won’t improve in South Africa while Eskom’s energy constraints continue, according to economist JP Landman.

Landman was speaking at the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (Asisa) conference on Wednesday at the Sandton Convention Centre.

“Electricity is an emotional issue,” he said. “We can live with our sport teams losing, but not having power is an issue.”

He explained that until the electricity issues and load shedding were resolved, South Africans would not share in government’s glossy vision of a prosperous nation.

The next Eskom crisis

In a panel discussion, Alexander Forbes chief executive Edward Kieswetter said the real crisis would occur when distribution fell.

“It is under maintained and underinvested,” he said. “It’s like not having the trucks to deliver the goods from your factories.”

The former Eskom senior executive said the utility was once admired globally, but that has since been lost.

Not enough is being done

In 1998, Kieswetter learnt that China was building an “Eskom every year”, or 40 000MW per year.

“And now it’s even more,” he said. “I visited these power stations and they just rise out of the ground. What we’re settling for [in terms of new power generation] is just not good enough.”

Load shedding hampering business

Liberty Group CEO Thabo Dloti said during the panel discussion that one of the biggest liabilities to the sovereign balance sheet was the cost of doing business in South Africa.

“Load shedding costs money,” he said. “There is declining productivity and it is partly due to protracted labour strikes and load shedding.”

An international investor told him recently that these issues are not new, “but how we address them is the important part”.

Impact on national psyche

JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King told delegates that she can see the effect that load shedding is having on the “national psyche”.

“Parastatals need to be reliable,” she said. “There is a role of business to work with government on other parastatals, as well as with Eskom.”


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The next Eskom crisis