Cape Town - Policy shifts were needed with Eskom, the government and energy sphere to ensure progress in resolving the country’s energy crisis.
Speaking at a panel discussion hosted by the Open Book Festival, Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said load shedding was the biggest “handbrake” on the economy and that there was no good technical reason why it was still taking place, all reasons pointing to a lack of political will.
The mayor was joined on stage at Cape Town’s Homecoming Centre yesterday for a discussion on the future of energy provision in Cape Town and Eskom by journalist and author Kyle Cowan and African Climate Foundation’s Saliem Fakir.
The discussion was based on Cowan’s recently published Sabotage: Eskom Under Siege, a story of conspiracy and subterfuge at South Africa’s ailing power utility which gave new insights into a battle threatening the country’s economy.
Cowan said: “It’s important for us all to realise that Eskom is effectively being hamstrung by bad policy. When we have load shedding, everyone says, ‘Oh, Eskom does not know what it’s doing’ – but they literally do not have the powers to fix the problem. They are managing an institution that is failing and deteriorating around them.”
Cowan said the majority of staff at Eskom worked hard to keep things going but something needed to change in the oversight of the power utility for progress to take place.
Hill-Lewis said this was particularly true when it came to the refusal to sign power purchase agreements and insistence on protecting the coal monopoly.
“You just need to have the political will… We have done that quite aggressively with the idea of reducing our reliance on Eskom by 15% to 20% in the next four or five years.
“The last six months, we have also done a lot of preparation for Stage 8 load shedding.
“This is definitely a future we never want to see… Every essential service will start to collapse probably in 48 hours, because we do not have enough diesel or diesel generators to keep these services going.”
Fakir said the book provided an accurate view of the state of Eskom, which all should be concerned about considering the massive implications for South Africa’s economy, if its state does not improve and if load shedding continues.
This was just one of 40 discussions and debates that took place at the book festival.