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Eskom's Kendal Power Station Facing Critical Challenges as Workforce Skills Drain

Published March 31, 2024
1 months ago


Eskom, South Africa’s main electricity provider, is struggling with a critical shortfall in skilled personnel, with one of its largest power stations, Kendal, massively underperforming as a result. Kendal Power Station, identified by Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as one of six priority stations failing to meet operational expectations, is currently running at just 36% efficiency – significantly below the 55% target set for the current financial year. This underperformance is due, in large part, to an exodus of skilled individuals from the entity, referred to by Ramokgopa as a "significant haemorrhaging of skills."


During an interview with Newzroom Afrika, the minister disclosed that an alarming 50% of Kendal's units are inactive, and at times, the entire station ceases operation. The decline in performance from one of Eskom’s former best-performing stations was described as "catastrophic" by Ramokgopa, who recently convened with the power station's employees to directly address the challenges they face, including the critical lack of skilled professionals.


The stigma attached to employment at Eskom, as portrayed by Ramokgopa in his conversation with eNCA, compromises the utility's ability to retain and recruit talent. A general perception, both internal and external to Eskom, holds that association with the company suggests involvement in corruption or incompetence, with this negative image following staff into their communal and family lives.


The deficiency in capable personnel is not isolated to Kendal but is reported as a broader problem across Eskom which has witnessed the departure of many proficient engineers and technicians essential in efforts to curb load-shedding. Despite the challenging circumstances, the minister expresses confidence in the qualified individuals within Eskom to resolve ongoing energy issues.


Corroborating the minister's observations, a report by VGBE Energy, commissioned by the National Treasury, diagnosed that Eskom's leadership skill set does not meet necessary standards, attributed partly to the abandonment of developmental programs and employee training. Addressing factors like the utility's unwieldy management system, insufficient maintenance, and poor staff morale, the report underlined these as contributory to Eskom’s deteriorating performance.


As deduced by the German consultancy group, Eskom’s technical managers possess a satisfactory theoretical understanding but the complication of exerting theoretical knowledge in a dysfunctional and overly intricate management environment is a significant hurdle, which also contributes to the demoralization and despondency of staff.


Eskom's predicament exemplifies a larger issue with public sector employment in South Africa and underscores the urgent need for reform and revitalization of the country’s state-owned entities, not only for the improvement of service delivery but also to restore employee morale and public confidence.



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