Jan Oberholzer, the forthright former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Eskom, is leaving the beleaguered power utility company by “mutual agreement”. This Monday’s announcement (17 July) informed that Oberholzer’s official departure date is scheduled for 31 July.
Although he formally retired from the company at the end of April 2023, Oberholzer didn’t completely sever his ties. He stayed on as a contractor to provide support for critical projects at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station and Kusile Power Station.
Eskom explained that this contract was for an unspecified fixed term.
Oberholzer’s Legacy: A Realistic Voice Amid Energy Crisis
In his leadership roles at Eskom, Oberholzer gained a reputation for his straightforward assessments of the nation’s energy situation. Even after retiring, he continued to share insightful and sometimes stark warnings about Eskom’s power generation realities.
Most recently, he offered a grim forecast for the nation’s energy future, stressing that South Africa still lacks a solid plan to counter load shedding. In a candid interview with Biznews founder Alec Hogg, Oberholzer stressed the urgency of the situation.
“South Africa’s failure to develop a plan to avoid future load-shedding is concerning,” Oberholzer stated. He emphasized the importance of accurately forecasting energy demand in both the short and long term, spanning from the next three months to as far as 50 years ahead.
“Without a clear understanding of future needs, it’s impossible to determine the necessary infrastructure requirements,” he warned.
Eskom’s Aging Infrastructure Challenges
Eskom is currently operating around 14 coal-fired power plants that have been in service for an average of 44 years. The longevity of these plants, compounded by inadequate maintenance, is a serious issue.
“Within the next 12 to 15 years, those producing approximately 20,000MW will reach the end of their operational life,” Oberholzer revealed.
He concluded with a call for a comprehensive approach towards infrastructure needs, taking into account variables like gas, batteries, and other emerging technologies. Regrettably, he noted, “this is still lacking in our country.”