Consumers of electricity are to brace themselves for more tariff increases in the next few years and they must also know that the evil that is load shedding will stay with them for a long time to come, at least another three to five years. This was the main message in a press briefing given by Eskom CEO, Tshediso Matona on Thursday.
Speaking on the need for load shedding, Matona said that the haphazard way in which the parastatal had been run in the last seven years had resulted in a desperate need for maintenance, which, if not done effectively, could result in a total blackout as the system slowed down and eventually tripped. He attacked the reason that had been given for the lack of maintenance, that is, to keep the lights on for the FIFA World Cup and the elections as weak.
According to Matona, Eskom had, since 2008, been burning diesel and producing electricity without shutting down for maintenance and, according to him, this would mean that it would take him and his team of technicians just as long to provide the adequate maintenance for the beleaguered parastatal to be fully operational. Adding his voice to the dark news, Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger admitted that the load shedding that would soon ensue would take long. He said that it all depended on the demand for electricity by the consumers. He said that if the demand was consistently low, this process would last only three years while the whole process would take up to five years if demand increased beyond the usual capacity.
Matona warned the public that bringing the national grid back to its feet, in addition to taking long, would not come cheap. He said that the electricity tariffs would definitely rise in a bid to recover the system that had burned too much diesel while trying to keep old power stations going. He said consumers needed to anticipate an increase of between 2-5% in April. This was in addition to the 8% per year that was granted to Eskom in 2013.
Turning to the only bit of good news that was available to them, Matona and Etzinger said that the fact that they had slowed down construction on the Kusile Power Station to concentrate resources on the Medupi Power Station was beginning to pay dividends as the first of the six units at Medupi would become operational in June. The rest of the units would join the grid every eight months until they were fully operational.