With colder weather slowly settling in, South Africans should anticipate not more than Stage 1 load shedding up until the end of August, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Wednesday.

Briefing media from Eskom’s Lethabo power station in the Free State, the Minister apologised to the country, including business, for the impact of the recent spate of load shedding incidents.

This as the country experienced up to Stage 4 load shedding last month. At Wednesday’s briefing, the Minister said Eskom, which falls within the ambit of the Department of Public Enterprises, is committed to supplying electricity to business and households.

“We have as our aim that there should be no load shedding from here onwards, but that is an aim, to get to that aim we must execute our plans at 110%. If there is load shedding at the most you will see Stage 1 load shedding between now and at least the end of August,” said the Minister.

Arising from work done in Eskom, Gordhan said the Technical Review Team has made preliminary observations. The team, which he appointed, began its work in mid-March and is yet to complete its work.

“We can demonstrate that we have a winter plan,” he said, adding that the utility considers the winter period to start on 1 May.

“Essentially the month of May is used to plan what needs to happen between June and the end of August which is the key winter period,” he said.

The plan includes the management of outages to ensure that the maximum amount of Megawatts are available on the grid.

While there is a plan in place, said the Minister, its implementation will depend on discipline.

“An important culture change needs to happen in Eskom where increased levels of accountability and consequence management will be key,” he said.

Speaking on the utility’s objectives for the rest of the year, Gordhan highlighted the importance of being transparent and frank with South Africans. “We are very apologetic for where we find ourselves,” he said, adding that he believes there is now a clear roadmap for the future both in the short and medium term.

Eskom board chair Jabu Mabuza said the utility has been able to improve its coal stockpiles while restructuring of the business continues. In addition, the power utility had also experienced diesel supply challenges.

Regarding the restructuring of the power utility, Eskom is looking at other staffing solutions rather than job losses. In President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last month, he announced the government’s plan to split the utility into three divisions. He has said there should be no job losses.

On the issue of the utility’s build programme which relates to the Medupi and Kusile power plants located in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, Mabuza said design problems at the plants will be fixed.

The two power plants have suffered massive delays and cost overruns due to poor planning, poor engineering designs, poor procurement practices and corruption. The Minister had earlier indicated that their design was badly done and was then changed.

“We did say we were reviewing the cost and benefit of continuing or otherwise. We have done the exercise and concluded that the costs of not continuing are not going to be met by the benefit of continuing,” said Mabuza.