Return of load shedding provoking business

load shedding

Today’s Eskom load shedding notice is guaranteed to provoke an extremely negative reaction from the business community.

With muted GDP growth and unemployment at unprecedented levels, surely we cannot afford additional constraints to an already burdened system? Business needs one thing: certainty, and if a country cannot provide certainty of power supply, we suffer in all kinds of ways. Local production is negatively affected and I know of few investors who would find South Africa an attractive destination to set up shop where regular, reliable electricity supply can cease at a moment’s notice.

This just encourages more people to go off the grid, putting the final nails into the coffin of the utility death spiral, as renewables also become more efficient – and reliable.

With no consequences for management incompetence and a bloated salary bill, there is no motivation for the utility to effect the dramatic change needed. Instead we now have the continued excuse by Eskom that the shutdowns are due to maintenance needs. Perhaps they should look at the maintenance of the people who need to make the decisions. Eskom, as an SOE, is a slave to politics, and is today the single biggest drain on the economy, reaching stratospheric debt with a new low in reliability. To compound the problem, Eskom is in disarray with even the Gupta coal purchases not sorted out yet. This policy ‘gaming’ and indecision is willful neglect by government with an impact on the economy that is felt by all – but most keenly by the poor and marginalized. South Africa has not had an Integrated Resource Plan for 10 years, and the reason is simple to see – no one is accountable. And then we have people in leadership positions doing the most confounding things, like promoting things like ‘clean’ coal. However, I have met many excellent people in Eskom who are battling to keep the ship afloat, but they need help. This help is not about pouring more money into this hole, it is about restructuring, streamlining and introducing capable and professional accountability – quickly.

Geoff Jacobs
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry