South Africa's Eskom to reduce power cuts but long-term outlook bleak

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa praised the government for making notable strides in the delivery of energy plan as there has been no load shedding in the last 40 days across the country.

The plan was originally unveiled by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2022. Speaking to the media on the progress of the Energy Action Plan (EAP) in Pretoria on Monday, Ramokgopa attributed the success to Eskom's improved structural changes alongside the government's support.

"Eskom, by its own admission accepts that the kind of improvement that we have seen is so enduring that we can say to the country that we have clocked back 1000 megawatts compared to the same period of the previous calendar year," he said, SA News reported.

The minister pointed out that the aggressive rollout of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) by private industries and households, supported by the National Treasury's incentives, helped to reduce the load shedding across South Africa.

"When we went to December of 2023 transitioning into January 2024, we experienced about 18% of the total generating capacity taken out for planned maintenance, unprecedented in the past three years, as a result of this fiscal support. These concerted efforts are beginning to bear fruits," he explained.

The minister also mentioned that the biggest challenge the government faced was sudden breaking down of units and not properly working as per capacity. He recalled that in May last year, the amount of capacity lost was about 18,000 megawatts.

He added, "This recovery and the clawing back of the 7,000 megawatts is something that has been experienced over a period of time [and] in this instance, over a 24-month period. All indications suggest that we will continue to improve on this number."

During the media briefing, the minister turned down the accusation of electricity being improved due to the upcoming elections in the country, noting that "there's no correlation between this performance and the date of 29 May."

He emphasized that Eskom can't earn and recover 5% points suddenly just because elections are coming up, explaining that it was done over the period of one year. Ramokgopa further said that it is a result of process mapping in an engineering term and the stabilization of management.

The upcoming elections will be held on May 29, making it the seventh election in the country since the end of the apartheid era in 1994.