The load shedding crisis in South Africa has taken another turn, as Jan Oberholzer, the former Eskom Chief Operations Officer (COO), has decided to stay on and oversee new projects at the embattled power company. According to reports from EE Business Intelligence, Oberholzer will not resume his former role as COO but will be tasked with leading new initiatives aimed at lessening load shedding.
As the country grapples with ongoing stage 6 load shedding, which could potentially worsen in the upcoming winter months, Oberholzer clarified that 2023 would be another tough year for power outages. Nevertheless, he stated that work to fix the embattled coal-fired power plants of Medupi and Kusile and extend Koeberg’s, South Africa’s only nuclear power station, license by an additional twenty years was on track.
However, Oberholzer indicated that the overall energy availability factor (EAF) targets by the Public Minister and Eskom board might not be attainable as he stated that Eskom would miss the 60% target for the 2022/23 trending year, with the EAF achieved equating to only 56.56%. The 2023/24 financial year has an EAF target of 65%.
Oberholzer also touched on Eskom coal-fired power plant extension plans, noting that Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s proposed plan to extend the life of Eskom coal-fired power plants should make economic sense. Meanwhile, the environmental minister, Barbara Creecy, indicated that environmental laws would allow for the slowing down of the decommissioning of coal power plants. South Africa remains committed to lowering its greenhouse gas emissions as per its National Determined Contribution provided to the United Nations. However, Creecy made it clear that it would not make sense to decommission existing power stations during an energy crisis and further stated that coal power stations could continue beyond 2030, provided they adhere to minimum standards related to air pollution.
In conclusion, Oberholzer’s decision to stay and guide Eskom’s new initiatives offers a glimmer of hope in the midst of the ongoing load shedding crisis. While the prospects of meeting Eskom’s EAF targets still remain uncertain, Oberholzer’s continuation in Eskom should be lauded as a step in the right direction for the beleaguered power company. The potential extension of coal power plants also offers a viable backup for South Africa’s electricity needs, but environmental concerns should not be ignored.