What EXACTLY is Eskom's problem? Lack of skilled technicians, engineers - study

In 2019, Primaresearch analysed Eskom to find out why the utility remains dysfunctional year after year.

Its findings are interesting and contradict popularly held views about Eskom’s malaise.

Poor maintenance was not the problem, the study found.

The age of the coal-fired fleet is also not to blame nor was overstaffing.

The problem is mainly that Eskom relies on technically skilled staff and suffered deep cuts in employee costs.

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A subsequent report by Primaresearch found skilled staff to be vital for reliable electricity generation.

Increasing maintenance on old plants is likely to be ineffective if employee skills issues are not addressed.

A programme to upskill Eskom’s technical staff and engineers will soon roll out, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said last week.

Refilwe Moloto interviewed Primaresearch’s Shamil Ismail about his report entitled “Shedding light on Eskom”, which found an unskilled labour force to be at the core of Eskom’s problems (scroll up to listen).

The lack of skills and experience better explain Eskom’s poor performance than the lack of maintenance or the age of plants… There are only three plants that can be classed as ‘aged’… This notion that we’ve got ageing coal plants is not true! … They’re doing maintenance, but the operation is not up to standard… The explosion at Medupi… it was staff error… It’s going to cost R2.5 billion to fix!

Shamil Ismail, author - Shedding light on Eskom (Primaresearch)

We’re hearing reports of internal sabotage, which may be blowback from those severe cost-cutting actions… It’s pennywise pound-foolish in my view.

Shamil Ismail, author - Shedding light on Eskom (Primaresearch)

Eskom used to be a blue-chip employer of choice… a place where engineers aspired to go. You need to return to that… The government wants to parachute in experts… calling on retired staff… It won’t work… We should consider outsourcing whole plants to overseas coal plant operators. They could be from China or India; they are leaders in coal-plant electricity generation…

Shamil Ismail, author - Shedding light on Eskom (Primaresearch)

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : What EXACTLY is Eskom's problem? Lack of skilled technicians, engineers - study

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