In a wide-ranging interview at African Utility Week 2015, Silas Zimu, CEO of Suzlon Wind Energy (and formed MD of City Power), comments on some of the topical issues in South Africa’s power sector.
On South Africa’s energy war room (which was established late last year to address sector challenges): “Everyone is undergoing load shedding and we need something to come out on this to bring hope to South Africans. They can communicate via SMS and WhatsApp or talk on the phone to make decisions. They can’t avoid what the country is going through.”
Renewables and coal
On renewable energy: “One of the biggest challenges in distribution is the non-payment in cities such as Soweto. How about taking some of these communities off-grid with free renewable access for life? We are not creating enough jobs to enable people to pay for electricity. It’s verging on being criminal.”
On delays with new coal-fired power stations: “We need expertise to manage the contractors and to be clear who are the contractors and the sub-contractors. Medupe needs to be fast-tracked and if need be to replace the current contractors.”
On a disconnect between policy and projects: “Everyone talks about access to energy, presidents, ministers, premiers, mayors, but those are not being converted into projects. We need to prioritize – why have a tarred road when there is no electricity? Start with energy projects and the rest can follow.”
On being CEO of Eskom: “As a customer I believe Eskom has forgotten about me. I would focus on informing and educating customers. On the one hand we tell customers to switch off this and that but on the other we say electricity kills and they don’t know what to switch off. Customers also shouldn’t just be reading about supply side issues in the newspapers.”