The possibility of load shedding is larger than the Day Zero water crisis that engulfed Cape Town until last month. This is according to independent energy expert Ted Bloom.

Bloom, who is a speaker and advisory board member at African Utility Week in Cape Town, says the current coal situation at Eskom is dire.

“According to my estimates the situation is dire, and it does not help that Eskom is in denial. Of Eskom’s 11 Mpumalanga stations (excluding Kusile still under construction), Eskom has admitted that nine are in trouble,” he notes.

Current model not working

“Eskom has tried to appease the public that coal is being transhipped from the balance of the stations – but that only can only be from the remaining two stations. Also, the OCGT (Eskom’s last resort) has been running for weeks,” Bloom adds.

Bloom says it is clear that the current Eskom model, as evolved since the change in Eskom status from “non-profit” to “for profit” in 2001, is not working. “All that has happened is that electricity prices have ballooned and killed off the energy intensive in export industries of South Africa.”

An energy sector out of sync

Commenting on the energy sector as a whole Bloom notes that the whole energy sector policy is, out of sync with the reality on the ground disjointed and contradictory as far as broad policy is concerned.

“Any roadmap has to start from the current reality, – hence cutting and pasting from other countries does not work. From there, one needs to declare energy a basic industrial ingredient or input factor and take every measure to keep it as cheap as possible. These are crucial ingredients in any Energy Strategy,” he explains.

“We need to start our thinking from the ground up, rather than continue with the patchwork efforts of the past. Without affordable cheap energy, economic growth is not possible,” he concludes.