Unlike Eskom’s coal, the sun and wind can’t be stolen by “sophisticated” crooks, says De Ruyter

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.

Photo: Gallo Images/Report/Deon Raath

  • Eskom CEO Other de Ruyter says that just because South Africa had coal does not mean it must keep burning it at all costs.
  • He said that SA’s solar and wind resources are among the best in the world and that, unlike Eskom’s coal, those resources could not be stolen.
  • De Ruyter said there is a highly organized criminal network that steals billions from Eskom every year.
  • For more financial news go to News24 Business front page.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter has slammed critics of the utility’s move to renewable energy away from coal, arguing that their arguments are not only illogical but tantamount to wanting to keep SA stuck in the “Stone Age”.

“When a technology reaches the end of its lifespan, there is no point in perpetuating it further. The Stone Age did not end because of a lack of stones. The mere fact that we have a lot of stone in South Africa does not mean we should have more stone tools,” De Ruyter told the Daily Maverick’s The Gathering event in Cape Town on Thursday.

He said just because South Africa has coal doesn’t mean it has to keep burning it no matter what.

“Our worst solar resources are better than the best solar resources in Germany. Our wind resources are among the best in the world. So that we neglect a resource by opting for something second-rate is simply not supported by the facts.

“The only good thing about sun and wind is that, first of all, they cannot be stolen. Nor can they be exported to China, processed there and then sold back to us.”

De Ruyter referred to recent arrests at his power plants for coal theft and sabotage. News24 reported that a truck driver was arrested Tuesday at Eskom’s Camden service station for allegedly tampering with coal, just a week after the utility caught a contractor trying to sabotage operations at the same service station. Two other drivers were arrested at the same power station two weeks ago when in possession of stolen coal.

READ | Coal truck driver arrested a week after ‘sabotage’ arrest at Eskom’s Camden service station

De Ruyter pointed out that the arrests were carried out by private security companies employed by Eskom and not by SAPS.

“We have to do our own investigation, we have to arrest the suspects and then we end up turning them over because we have no law enforcement powers.

“But there is a clear challenge in Mpumalanga province with organized crime. Pretending it’s just a few isolated incidents isn’t backed up by the facts. Everything is connected in quite sophisticated networks that steal billions of rand from Eskom every year.”

corruption

Eskom recently received a €10 million (R180 million) grant from German development bank KfW to set up a renewable energy training facility at Grootvlei coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga. The Komati power plant, which has already been decommissioned, has secured around R9 billion (in loans and grants on concessional terms) from the World Bank and partners for its conversion.

The first funds from the UK, US, Germany, France and the EU – or International Partners Group – from an initial $8.5 billion pledge to support South Africa’s just energy transition are also expected to flow soon.

De Ruyter said these lenders are concerned to protect that money from corruption in South Africa.

EXPLAIN | Losses and damage and 4 other COP27 outcomes relevant to SA

“Of course, when that amount of money goes into an economy, there’s a lot of concern, especially given a company like Eskom’s reputation for wrongdoing and corruption,” he said.

“From our perspective, we’ve said from day one that we need to make sure we can demonstrate proper governance. As for me, this is my message to lenders: If they want to pay the contractor directly, without the money touching Eskom, whatever, that would be my preference.

politics

De Ruyter said Eskom needs more political certainty from the government to properly transform the state-owned company.

“These are very important for investors. If we can provide this stability and security, then they will come.”

He cited the example of prohibitive import tariffs and local content requirements, which he said were holding Eskom back.

“If you think about what’s the bigger evil that you’re trying to cure — are we trying to find solutions for energy security, for employment, for cleaning up the environment, or are we trying to find 200 or 300 jobs at local manufacturers of to protect solar panels?

“I think we need to weigh the greater good and quickly position ourselves to solve the bigger problem, which is energy security.”

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