Diversify energy supply, do more with renewables - Netherlands Ambassador on Eskom

It is important to diversify energy options, as a reliable energy supply is "vital", Netherlands Ambassador to SA Han Peters told Fin24 on Monday.

Speaking to Fin24 by phone, Peters discussed various issues affecting investor confidence in SA – among these, energy supply. He was previously ambassador to Brazil, before being appointed to his current position in 2018.

At the state of the nation address in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the state power utility Eskom would be split into three entities, in an effort to ensure security of energy supply.

The entities – responsible for generation, transmission and distribution – will remain state-owned and will fall under the Eskom Holdings parent company, Ramaphosa has said.

Government has since announced the appointment of a technical review team, tasked with reviewing the operations, maintenance and the technical environment at Eskom's power stations.

The team of 11 have academic, engineering and power system expertise. The team reports to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and to a technical sub-committee of the Eskom board.

'Government has a plan'

"I think it is good that government has a plan for Eskom, and now we will have to see how to implement it," Peters told Fin24.

"Energy supply is vital for industry, for households, for all of us. It is also good to diversify energy options.

"I think almost any country in the world will have to do that, as we move away from fossil fuels," Peters said.

Peters referred to the Netherlands, which is heavily reliant on gas for energy. It is also in a process of transitioning to other energy resources, as the areas where natural gas sources are located are experiencing earthquakes.

"There is definitely a need for all of us to do more with renewable energy," he said.

Labour unions have opposed the introduction of renewable energy to the energy mix, arguing they pose a risk to jobs at coal mines and will make electricity more expensive.  

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has blamed tariff hikes granted by the energy regulator to Eskom for the next three years, on the introduction of IPPs.

Gordhan has previously said that government has been consulting with unions and other stakeholders in the energy space to better understand the challenges Eskom is facing and what must be done to turn things around.