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Op-Ed: Why Eskom CEO’s Resignation is a Huge Setback for the State-owned Power Utility and South Africa

Andre De Ruyter’s announcement came a few days after the country was told that the renewable energy programme, a necessary part of South Africa’s energy future and a low-cost solution to the energy shortfall, will only award the solar tenders of Bid Window 6, adding a miserable 860 MW to the energy grid. This is instead of 5,200 MW promised by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his Electricity Action Plan delivered in July 2022. De Ruyter’s resignation comes as South Africa’s energy consumers face the worst scheduled power cuts ever, beyond even their wildest imaginings. Eskom operates a  fleet  of 15 coal-fired power stations, one nuclear facility, 4 gas turbines and 7 pumped storage/hydro-electric stations. Most of the coal stations are down for emergency repairs, and there seems to be no end in sight to escalating rolling blackouts. That is 20% of what was promised and 5% of what the country needed, based on the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan. All of this shows that De Ruyter’s resignation is no reflection on the ability – or inability – of an individual to deal with the electricity crisis. Whoever replaces him will confront the many systemic or structural issues in the company – and the country.