Eskom chair Ben Ngubane warns of winter power cuts

Winter power cuts might be unavoidable unless the Treasury urgently signs purchase agreements so that Eskom can build up its coal reserves, the utility’s chairperson, Ben Ngubane, warned on Tuesday.

Ngubane said there had been no planned power cuts over the past two winters because “we had sufficient coal brought in and built up the stocks to more than a 1-million tonnes”.

But he added: “Now we have a problem because the Treasury has not yet signed our coal purchase agreements and we are in winter‚ and the winter is getting bitter. People are using electricity like crazy … we need to have enough stock of coal in view of that.”

Ngubane was speaking on the sidelines of the African Utility Week conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre‚ where he delivered the opening address.

He gave credit for the uninterrupted electricity supply to newly reinstated Eskom CEO Brian Molefe‚ who — on his second day back in the hot seat — skipped the event due to other “urgent matters”.

Said Ngubane: “I’m proud that we have made a difference at Eskom and saved the country from going into a state of blackout.

“And the person who must take credit for that is Brian [Molefe]. [His reappointment] is for the good of the country and in the [best] interest of the company.”

Ngubane said Molefe helped avoid disaster by building up coal reserves and devising planned outages during his first stint as the power utility’s CEO.

Molefe was reinstated at Eskom last week after he left the post in November following a damning state capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela‚ which linked him to the Saxonwold-based Gupta family.

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