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Eskom COO job to be scrapped after Oberholzer retires


Mteto Nyati.

Mteto Nyati.

Freddy Mavunda/Gallo Images

  • When Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer retires in April, he won’t be replaced, an Eskom director has confirmed.
  • The position will be scrapped ahead of the unbundling of Eskom.
  • While government wants to end load shedding before the end of the year, the Eskom board is sticking to a two-year plan to boost operations.
  • For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.

The Eskom board plans to scrap the position of chief operating officer (COO), director Mteto Nyati confirmed at a briefing on Thursday.

Jan Oberholzer was appointed as the utility’s first COO in 2018. He retires in April.

The board has decided to cancel the position, given that Eskom will be unbundled into three divisions (generation, transmission and distribution).

“This phenomenon of COO is (also) something that is new in Eskom,” Nyati said.

Oberholzer was a regular fixture at the Eskom media briefings, but he did not appear at Thursday’s event. Nyati said that the board is not involved in deciding who should attend the briefings.

Following CEO André de Ruyter’s resignation in December, a company that was appointed to find a replacement will present a long list of candidates to the board’s nomination committee within the next two weeks. Nyati, a former CEO of Altron and MTN South Africa, said a short list would then be compiled.

In response to pronouncements by ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula that the ruling party wants to end load shedding by the end of 2023 by reprioritising the national budget and declaring a national state of disaster, Nyati said the board is sticking to a two-year plan.

READ | Caution about Eskom’s ‘new’ plan – but private power may come to the rescue

Last month, the new Eskom board confirmed a plan that aims to improve the Eskom coal fleet’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF) to a “desirable level” in two years. 

Nyati says that the Eskom board has not been pressured by government to change its plan.

“We are open to any ideas … that will help us to move us the timeline to earlier. [But] at this time, we have a clear plan … [and] that is a two-year plan.”

After Eskom said last year that it didn’t have enough cash to buy diesel – which is crucial for emergency power generation – the utility confirmed that it has enough to buy diesel for the next two months. The diesel is used to fuel two major diesel-burning open cycle gas turbines. 

Acting head of generation Thomas Conradie says Eskom wants to move from using diesel to gas, for open-cycle gas turbines, which would be more economical. Over time the units will change from using diesel to LNG.

Conradie says the open-cycle gas turbines are running at a 16% load factor, and is aggressively fired up to deal with higher demand.

Power station managers will be given more powers to reward top-performer employees with higher salary increases and promotions, the Eskom media briefing heard.

Nyati said that some Eskom employees are doing a good job – but they are treated the same way as those who are not applying themselves, causing low morale at the utility.

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