André de Ruyter
  • At the end of the month he will be asking Eskom's board for a mandate to "implement some significant changes to how we do things, new CEO André de Ruyter says.
  • He is keen to avoid load shedding through a return to demand-side management – such as getting incandescent bulbs replaced with energy-efficient ones.
  • No promises though, because any intervention has to deliver bang for buck.
  • Go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage for more stories.

Big changes are coming at Eskom – but exactly what they will be depends on a crucial board meeting at the end of this month.

At that meeting, says new CEO André de Ruyter, he will be presenting a package of proposals to shake up the ailing utility that, if accepted, "will give us the mandate to implement some significant changes to how we do things".

The changes he thinks are needed includes a return to demand-side management and getting South Africa to use less electricity. And that could mean a subsidy for energy-efficient lightbulbs.

See on Fin24 – De Ruyter: Eskom is like a bicycle with the chain off

"It’s not that expensive, actually, relative to the benefit that you get," De Ruyter said of demand-side management in an exclusive interview with Business Insider South Africa on Tuesday.

"We look at it on a cents-per-kilowatt hour basis, and if you look for example at something like rolling out compact fluorescent lights to replace incandescent bulbs, it’s a very low-cost intervention relative to the benefit that you get."

De Ruyter would not commit Eskom to subsidies for massive energy-saves such as solar geysers – which came with a rebate to encourage adoption in South Africa under a department of energy programme that came to a messy end in 2015.

Pushed on such subsidies, he would go only so far as saying "potentially" and "if the numbers stack up".

"We’ve got a whole range of ideas, but now we need to go and cost and we need to understand what gives us the biggest bang for our buck in the shortest order of time," he said.

"Those are the priorities that we will chase."

But wasteful lighting clearly bothers De Ruyter. The need for load shedding can be reduced by user behaviour, he said, and driving through the Sandton business district at night and seeing lights on in office buildings points to a problem.

"In a country with an energy crisis, is that a responsible way of going about [using a very scarce commodity?"

In order to help change attitudes Eskom hopes to roll out "traffic-light signalling" again, to ask the nation to turn off pool pumps and other non-essentials when the electricity supply hits "yellow", with "green" to indicate it is time to use electricity without guilt – and the "red" state indicating deep trouble.

Eskom will endeavour to provide "adequate notice" of load shedding in future, De Ruyter said.

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