A roadmap for South Africa’s energy future warned of a rise in “do-it-yourself-electricity”, leading to the possible collapse of the country’s energy grid.

Energy expert Ted Blom’s presentation at Africa Utility Week Tuesday was in sharp contrast to Eskom interim CEO Phakamani Hadebe’s address earlier, who told delegates that Eskom plans to play a bigger role in Africa.

“Energy is the lifeblood of Africa and it is a human right,” says Hadebe. “It is not optional. It is essential. It is for this reason we should see ourselves as not representing utilities or countries but the continent.”

Blom, however, sketches a far direr picture for Eskom locally.

“We are sitting with a broken energy department,” he says, citing a litany of problems including corruption and unethical leadership at the power utility and the country’s energy department.

Blom referrs to the 27 renewable energy projects signed with independent private producers last month.

He highlights that Eskom, due to contractual constraints, has become the “supplier of last resort” with serious consequences for its revenue generation.

“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”.

He goes as far as comparing the situation under the new administration to “changing chairs on the Titanic”.

“The bottom line is South Africans are not getting the cheapest energy. Given this mess and the lack of energy reliability we are going to see a very liberated energy sector in this part of the world.

“This means people are going to employ survival strategies and will do what they have to do to survive the electricity crisis because it is not over yet.”

Blom says, in terms of his roadmap for South Africa’s energy future the country will see a rise in what he calls DIY electricity.

“We are going to have a situation where households and light industries which are not energy intensive will do their own thing because their needs are not met now. They can do it far cheaper if they do it on their own in a collaborative way. So micro grids are bound to explode.”

It is not all doom and gloom, however: Blom foresees massive technological breakthroughs in terms of DIY electricity and new energy storage solutions.

He warns, however: “With the lack of pressure on utilities we will see 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,” he said.
Written by Alicestine October