Govt mum over bailout plan for Eskom

Without additional funding, daily load shedding will be implemented to avoid a national blackout.

Eskom's head office in Sunninghill, Johannesburg. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - While Eskom is expected to hold a briefing on the state of South Africa's power system today there's still no indication how government will assist the ailing state utility.

Eskom says it will run out of funds to buy diesel by the middle of next month and this means daily load shedding will occur in order to prevent a complete collapse of the system.

The utility has been battling to keep up with demands due to limited generating capacity, ageing infrastructure and several technical issues at its power stations.

While business leaders are coming up with ideas on how to survive continuous load shedding, government has remained mum on its action plan to help Eskom in the short and long-term.

The utility says its buying diesel to run the open gas turbines extensively to make up for the shortfall of electricity but without more money it can't continue doing this.

Economist Azar Jammine says obtaining funds could start increasing electricity tariffs but they also other ways.

"Increase taxes or an increase in the fuel levy or government itself need to go borrow more money on international markets."

Meanwhile, Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona will brief the media today on the status of the power system.

Matona has spent most of his week meeting with board members and business stakeholders of what to expect in terms of electricity supply.

Some business leaders have indicated that Matona admitted that there was an energy emergency and that there is a real possibility of a national blackout.

ESKOM POWER STATIONS TO COME UNDER SCRUTINY

Eskom's Majuba and Lethabo Power Stations will come under scrutiny during an oversight visit by the Portfolio Committee for Public Enterprises.

This week Parliament granted the committee access to visit the power stations and maintenance reports will be made available.

Eskom has been battling to keep up with electricity demand since a coal silo collapsed at Majuba last year reducing supply by about 1800 megawatts.

The Democratic Alliance (DA's) Shadow Minister for Public Enterprises Natasha Michael says, "I want to find out from the engineers why maintenance is not being carried out, why Majuba is being run in a completely different manner to other silos."

She says basically her aim is to lift the shroud of secrecy covering Eskom.

TIME RUNNING OUT

Eskom says load shedding will be a reality for the next few months as the cuts will help protect the power grid and prevent a complete national blackout.

It has indicated that unless it receives additional government funds, i t will run out of money to buy diesel, which is being used to run open gas turbines, from mid-February.

But there's still no word or action plan from government.