/ 3 May 2023

Jan Oberholzer to stay on at Eskom as an adviser

Jan Oberholzer
Former Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer. (Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Former Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer will remain at the utility to oversee projects aimed at pulling South Africa out of a power crisis, which is set to worsen as winter arrives and demand for electricity increases.

Oberholzer, who was to retire at the end of April, signed a separate contract with the utility to help it navigate the load-shedding crisis.

Eskom has recently lost several key executives, as it battles the worst stretch of load-shedding ever, including its chief executive, André de Ruyter.

Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena said on Wednesday that Oberholzer would “focus on overseeing projects dealing with the current electricity crisis. He will serve the role of advising and consultations with the utility board and ministers.”

Oberholzer, who has worked for the utility for 30 years and became Eskom’s first chief operating officer in 2018, will continue to work with the Eskom board and Electricity Minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa

Both Ramokgopa and Oberholzer are in agreement on extending the life of coal powered stations to stabilise the grid.

Last month in a television interview with eNCA, Oberholzer said Eskom had already looked at the possibility of extending the lives of the Grootvlei, Camden and Hendrina power stations, which were commissioned in 1969, 1967 and 1970, respectively.

Oberholzer has said, although he was also in favour of “going green”, it was “important to understand what was practical in South Africa” in the short term.  

Oberholzer pointed out that according to Eskom’s current generation strategy, more than 20 000 gigawatts of generation capacity from the coal-fired power plants, which form the backbone of its fleet, is due to be retired by 2035. After that, only six coal-fired plants would remain — Medupi, Matimba, Kusile, Kendal, Lethabo and Majuba. 

This also includes fulfilling the board’s promise to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to reach the energy availability factor targets of 60%, 65% and 70% for Eskom’s 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25 financial years.

The utility has been unable to increase the energy availability factor to 60%. The current EAF is 54.11%. This has been caused by breakdowns at six of Eskom power plants, which has pushed the country to stage six load-shedding during the nights.

Mandisa Nyathi is a climate reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa