WE HAVE been so comprehensively lied to we don’t know who or what to believe. When blackouts started in the Western Cape 10 years ago, the official explanation was sabotage. As blackouts spread, we were told that wet coal and, later, low-quality coal was the cause. Since then, the excuses have ranged from skills shortages to inadequate coal stockpiles, depletion of water reserves in hydroelectric plants, power exports to neighbouring countries, diesel shortages, collapsing silos and maintenance.
The excuse that has been pushed most often is that the government underestimated electricity demand and failed to authorise additional generation capacity. In the late 1990s, so the story goes, Eskom predicted that power reserves would run out by 2007. This doesn’t wash. The government’s electricity supply projections were based on estimates of economic growth of about 5% a year, while the realised rate was 3.1%.
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