by STAFF REPORTER
CAPE TOWN, (CAJ News) – WHILE the beleaguered South African power utility, Eskom, projects playing a bigger role in the continent, an energy expert has painted a dire picture for the company and the possible collapse of the country’s energy grid.
Eskom featured prominently in a roadmap for South Africa’s energy future presented at the African Utility Week in Cape Town.
Ted Blom, the energy expert, warned of a rise in “do-it-yourself-electricity” and the subsequent breakdown of South Africa’s grid.
The warning was in sharp contrast to Eskom interim Chief Executive Officer, Phakamani Hadebe, who in his address told delegates Eskom planned to play a bigger role in the continent.
“Energy is the lifeblood of Africa and it is a human right. It is not optional. It is essential,” Hadebe said.
“It is for this reason we should see ourselves as not representing utilities or countries but the continent,” the executive added.
Blom South Africa was “sitting with a broken energy department” citing a litany of problems including corruption and unethical leadership at the power utility and the country’s energy department.
Hadebe was appointed CEO of Eskom earlier this year.
“Even under the new administration there is still a ‘lack of funds and lack of professional direction because the new Eskom board has no real energy experience and are guided by those that plundered Eskom and drove it into the ground,” Blom said.
He compared the situation under the new administration to “changing chairs on the Titanic.”
Blom said in terms of his roadmap for South Africa’s energy future the country will see a rise in what he calls DIY-electricity, a situation where households and light industries which are not energy intensive will “do their own thing because their needs are not met now.”
It is not all doom and gloom however as Blom foresees massive technological breakthroughs in terms of DIY-electricity and new energy storage solutions.
He warned however warned with the lack of pressure on utilities, the country would witness a cost runaway and a dilapidated grid with no money to fix it, and eventually a meltdown.
“It might happen in one day or in ten years,” Blom said.