/ 7 November 2023

Calib Cassim: Eskom aims to cap load-shedding at stage four

Calib Cassim (1)
Eskom acting chief executive, Calib Cassim. File photo by Freddy Mavunda/Gallo Images

Eskom remains committed to capping load-shedding at stage four throughout this summer, acting group chief executive Calib Cassim told parliament’s watchdog standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday.

“We are quite convinced and comfortable that stage four load-shedding, that is the peak that we want to reach in the summer period. Obviously we want it as low as possible and, more importantly from our economic growth perspective, not to load-shed during the day, and it is just evening peaks,” he said.

“So far October’s been great; we have only touched stage three and we are focusing on continuing with that trend going forward.”

Cassim and the Eskom board were briefing Scopa on the utility’s financial results for the year ending March 2023, in which load-shedding reached a record number of 280 days and energy availability factor fell to 56%. The utility recorded a loss of R23.9 billion, the worst in its history, and warned that the outlook for the current year was hardly better.

Cassim said Eskom accepted that it must “really focus” on bringing load-shedding under control but that it was heartening that the power utility was able to recover generation capacity faster than in the past.

“What is comforting from where I am sitting … where we get into a difficult few days, the generation team recovers quite quickly, unlike before,” he said.

“The other positive that has come through the generation performance [is], you make certain tough decisions early in the week, so it does not result in more difficult and higher stages of load-shedding later on. So I think we have taken a lot of the lessons from the past that we have built into the performance.”

Cassim stressed that generation capacity was Eskom’s first priority, including ensuring that there was an additional 4 000 to 6 000 megawatt of dispatchable capacity to stabilise the power system by unlocking the grid. 

Part of the dismal performance for the past financial year was the failure to add any power to the grid from the department of mineral resources and energy’s emergency procurement round. It was meant to yield 2 000 megawatt last year.

It was therefore imperative, Cassim said, to invest in installing 14 000km of transmission line and 8 000km of distribution line.

“Because of the grid constraints we were unable to connect the IPPs [independent power producers] to the grid in terms of previous bid windows 5 and 6 and we need to address this to ensure future bid windows are a success,” he said.

“We are looking at initiatives such as curtailment in the initial years to allow for the transmission grid and some changes in queueing rules on distribution to allow access to happen much faster.”

Eskom chairperson Mteto Nyathi said management deserved credit for preventing load-shedding exceeding stage six in the winter months.

“Eskom did well to prevent the worst-case scenario.”

Regarding the appointment of new permanent chief executive for Eskom, he reiterated that the board had forwarded the names of three candidates to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and expected an appointment to be made by year’s end.

“Recently as a board we submitted names of three names of appointable candidates to our minister,” he said.

“He is now taking these names through the relevant governance processes. We expect the appointment to be made before the end of this year.”

The process stalled in May when the board, then under chairperson Mpho Makwana, provided Gordhan with only one potential candidate.