With loadshedding in place for the duration of the weekend, Eskom’s newly appointed group chief executive officer, Andre de Ruyter briefed South Africans as to the state of Eskom on Friday morning.

The Eskom Group CEO faces the gargantuan task of turning the utility around in the face of ever-mounting problems.

Acknowledging the errors of the past, de Ruyter highlighted the fact that Eskom is not a trusted entity in the eyes of South Africans, shareholders, lenders and even within Eskom itself.

Addressing that issue of trust will be one of the group CEO’s core responsibilities but he also outlined the five areas that Eskom will focus on in order to address the crisis it faces.

Those five areas are:

  • Achieving operational stability
  • Improving Eskoms income statement
  • Addressing Eskom’s balance sheet
  • Addressing corruption including legacy and ongoing challenges
  • Carrying out organisational restructuring

In order to achieve operational stability, Eskom has to conduct desperately needed maintenance. In order to do that it has to bring parts of the grid offline and implement loadshedding so that the grid doesn’t collapse entirely.

“Our system is constrained, it’s unreliable, it’s unpredictable and it is prone to unplanned outages,” said de Ruyter.

“We have achieved some successes over the past with our nine point plan. I think we have lots of good plans but what we now need is the execution. We developed a comprehensive maintenance plan which we have taken to our board this week, the board supported it and this will allow us to perform the various, rigorous maintenance on our power plants,” the CEO added.

In short, Eskom will endeavour to adhere to maintenance guidelines set out by the manufacturers of equipment it uses. If this seems basic to you, that’s because it is. The CEO admits that scheduled maintenance plans were largely ignored which puts us in the position we find ourselves in today.

So what does this mean for you at home?

Sadly, more loadshedding, but there is a silver lining of sorts.

Eskom will carefully plan how it implements loadshedding and purchase electricity from entities which have an excess of supply in order to offset its supply inefficiencies.

South Africans will also start to see load management alerts on their TVs again. Those who recall those from back in the day will know that Eskom will ask South Africans to reduce their demand by switching off non-essential, power hungry appliances and devices in their homes. These alerts will begin as soon as February the CEO said.

In addition to much needed maintenance, de Ruyter highlights the need for skills transfer within the utility. That is to say that rather than relying on equipment manufacturers for maintenance, staff within Eskom should be trained to conduct maintenance on equipment.

“We will unfortunately have to expect some increase in loadshedding. We are going to have to do this in a structured, managed, careful way. We have be able to give ourselves the space to fix what needs to be fixed. If we don’t implement this maintenance plan there is a very real risk that the deterioration in our system performance will continue and we therefore need an intervention and we need it as soon as possible,” said de Ruyter.

So how long do we need to cope with loadshedding?

According to Eskom the system will remain “vulnerable for a period of approximately 18 months” which brings us to July 2021.

It seems then as if it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The question we have is whether this seed planted by de Ruyter will eventually bear fruit.

Unfortunately it is now very much a waiting game and South Africans are going to have to strap in for the long haul.

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.