This week, Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona said in a statement that scheduled blackouts were the “right thing” to do.

“We have arrived at a turning point where can either continue to do the same things of the past… or we can do the right thing… to get us out of this difficult situation,” Matona said.

Blackouts were necessary to allow Eskom to catch up with the maintenance of its generating units.

“We have opted to do things the right way… expose the country to the likelihood of load shedding,” said Matona.

However, Johan Muller, Programme Manager for Energy & Environment at Frost & Sullivan, said that many of the current challenges faced by Eskom could have been prevented if better planning exercises where executed.

“The silo collapse can be linked to scheduled and unscheduled maintenance practices, as well as to quality of Eskom’s procurement programme when tenders are awarded. In my opinion, both these aspects will be coming under very close scrutiny soon. It is bound to happen again, just in another format.”

“The shortage of diesel is part of a much larger question,” Muller added. “With the current diesel bill coming in at R 2bn per month, the real question is rather: how sustainable is this solution? The short answer: it is not. The whole idea behind the diesel turbines was to provide power only in special peak circumstances and not as a base load as is currently the case.

At the moment, it seems as if Eskom is operating in crisis management mode, with new challenges set to continue until a serious turn-around strategy is implemented and shared with the informed public for comment.”

Muller goes on to explain how he feels these down-times affect the Cape business community.

“I’ve heard comments about the downtimes costing the South African economy R300bn since 2008. Without doing a detailed cost of unserved energy study, most numbers are likely to be ballpark-figures. “

One should, however, look at the local tourism sector and also the agricultural sector in the Western Cape, which should stand to be affected. It will become a question of whether companies have installed alternative power solutions, such as diesel generators or other hybrid solutions. This data is not public yet, to my knowledge.  

Muller’s tip for Cape Town businesses would be to evaluate its business case, and plan for various scenarios.

“There are ways and means of mitigating the costs and risks with this current situation we are in, but they are likely to all result in increased power prices or increased production prices, which will translate into end-products or services which are more expensive than previously planned for.”

“The key is to keep the increase in costs to as little as possible, and still remain competitive not just locally, but also in the national and global markets the company is active is. A short term solution is to critically evaluate power consumption, and determine where immediate savings can be made. Then start planning for the longer term.”