Business

Eskom looks outside for expertise

Lynley Donnelly

The power parastatal has employed external consultant Mike Rossouw to help solve its myriad problems.

Former Energy Intensive User Group chair Mike Rossouw. (Financial Mail)

ANALYSIS

Eskom may not have a permanent chief executive, but it does have an “energy thought leader” reporting to its acting chief executive, Collin Matjila.

The news that Mike Rossouw, former chairperson of the Energy Intensive User Group (EIUG), will be taking up the role as an independent consultant at the utility has been welcomed wholeheartedly by the EIUG, but was greeted with more cautious optimism by other observers.

It has been seen as a sign that the parastatal has been forced to look beyond traditional avenues in a bid to address the range of problems it faces, including its financial sustainability, the current electricity shortage and the completion of its new power stations, Medupi and Kusile.

Rossouw’s introduction suggests that the government is concerned about the lack of capacity within Eskom, said Democratic Alliance spokesperson on energy Lance Greyling, adding that it is encouraging that it is “reaching out” beyond the organisation’s ranks in a bid to address this. But greater clarity is needed on precisely what Rossouw’s role will be, said Greyling.

Eskom said in response to questions that Rossouw is a “recognised and trusted adviser and thought leader in energy with extensive knowledge … working with the government, the regulator, academia, business and Eskom”.

He will “facilitate a process and give technical support that will ensure acceleration of the generation plant performance recovery”, the company said.

Work experience
Rossouw was most recently executive director for power at engineering consultancy Hatch Goba, but has worked at a range of resources firms including Xstrata, Rio Tinto and Impala Platinum. It is understood that Rossouw will report to Matjila and is contracted to Eskom for a year.

Eskom also intends to fill other key senior posts, such as that of the former acting group executive for technology and commercial, Kannan Lakmeeharan, who left Eskom at the end of April.

Lakmeeharan has held other key posts, such as managing director for the system operations and planning division, playing a vital role in ensuring the country’s lights stayed on. He was pivotal to business integration at Eskom, helping to co-ordinate the operations of the various divisions within the utility.

His exit may have directly contributed to Eskom’s decision to find a person who can play this integrating role.

Rossouw previously worked with Matjila at the National Energy Regulator, when Matjila was its chairperson. One industry source has questioned Rossouw’s appointment, given his lack of experience in a utility, particularly in the face of the complexity of the power generation system.

But others see Rossouw’s role as being part of the advisory panel that helped to develop the country’s integrated resource plan, as well as his experience in working across stakeholders – from the government to some of Eskom’s largest customers – as positive.

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