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Eskom is a South African electricity public utility, established in 1923 as the Electricity Supply Commission (ESCOM) and also known by its Afrikaans name Elektrisiteitsvoorsieningskommissie (EVKOM), by the government of the Union of South Africa in terms of the Electricity Act (1922). Eskom represents South Africa in the Southern African Power Pool. The utility is the largest producer of electricity in Africa,[3][4] is among the top seven utilities in the world in terms of generation capacity and among the top nine in terms of sales. It is the largest of South Africa's state owned enterprises. Eskom operates a number of notable power stations, including Kendal Power Station, and Koeberg nuclear power station in the Western Cape Province, the only nuclear power plant in Africa. The company is divided into Generation, Transmission and Distribution divisions and together Eskom generates approximately 95% of electricity used in South Africa, and ~45% used in Africa.[5]

Public utility
Traded asJSE: BIESKM
IndustryEnergy industry
Founded1 March 1923; 96 years ago (1923-03-01)
HeadquartersSunninghill, South Africa
Key people
Jabu Mabuza
RevenueIncrease R 179.8 billion (FY2019)[1]
US$ 12.1 billion
Decrease R-20.7 billion (FY2019)[1]
US$ -1.4 billion
Total assetsIncrease R 746 billion (FY2018)[2]
US$ 50.5 billion
Number of employees
Decrease 46,665 (FY2018)[1]

In 2019, it was announced that Eskom was to be split up into three distinct nationally owned entities due to huge debts and poor reliability of supply.


The Congella Power Station completed in 1928 was one of the first power plants built and owned by Eskom.

Prior to the establishment of Eskom the provision of electricity was dominated by municipalities and private companies. The city of Kimberley was one of the first users of public electricity when it installed electric streetlights in 1882 to reduce crime at night.[6]:5 This was followed by Cape Town in 1895 with the construction of the Graaff Electric Lighting Works to power 775 street lights.

Eskom was founded by a parliamentary act, namely the Electricity Act of 1922, which allowed the Electricity Control Board to appoint Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl as the Chairman of the Board.[7] The company changed its name by combining the two acronyms in its previous name (ESCOM and EVKOM) in 1987 to become known as Eskom.

The Electricity Act stated that Eskom could only sell electricity at cost and but was exempted from tax with the firm initially raising capital through the issuing of debentures, later issuing state-guaranteed loans instead. The coal-fired Congella Power Station in Durban and Salt River Power Station in Cape Town were the first power stations built by Eskom, both complete in mid-1928.[8]

One of Eskom's first power plants was a coal-fired 128 MW station in Witbank completed in 1935 to provide power to the mining industry. The plant was built and run in partnership with the privately owned Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company which owned a number of other power plants across the country. Thanks to state support Eskom was able to buy out the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company in 1948 for £14.5 million (roughly equivalent to £2.55 billion in 2017). Following World War 2 South Africa experienced power shortages that led to Eskom negotiating power saving agreements with the mining industry in June 1948.[6]:6

First expansion period: 1960-1994Edit

Arnot Power Station completed in 1975 was one of the first of the "six-pack" coal-fired power plants built during this period that Eskom was well known for.

From 1960 to 1990 Eskom increased its installed power production capacity from 4,000 MW to 40,000 MW so as to keep up with rapid economic growth in the 1960s and 70s.[6]:4 During the same period Eskom established a nationwide 400 kV power network. During this period the company built a number of large standardised coal-fired power plants that could produce power at very low cost due to the large economies of scale. These plants were known colloquially as "six-packs" for the 6 large generator units they were designed to accommodate.[6]:7

In 1974 the company was instructed to start work on Koeberg nuclear power station to both provide power to Cape Town and help facilitate the South African government's nuclear program.[6]:7

In 1981 Eskom was involved in one of its first large financial scandal when its Assistant Chief Accountant was caught embezzling R8 million from the company[6]:7 (equivalent to roughly R164.37 million in 2018).[9]

During the 1970s the company controversially sought to increase electrical tariffs to help pay for its large expansion plans. Due to its financial situation government appointed Dr. W.J. de Villiers to chair a commission that recommended a number of financial and organisational changes for the company to adopt. This led to the company abandoning its no-profit objective and to raise funds by taking out international loans. The number of Eskom employees was also reduced from 66,000 to 60,000 in the late-1980s.[6]:8

Post-1994 election period: 1994-2007Edit

Following democratic elections in 1994 and the start of the Mandela government the company changed focus to electrification of previously neglected residential homes and to provide low cost electricity for economic growth. Following the passing of the 1998 Eskom Amendment Act government's powers to influence company policy and investment decisions were greatly expanded.[6]:8–9 Due to the South African government's attempted privatisation of Eskom in the late 1990s during the administration of President Thabo Mbeki, Eskom requests for budget to build new stations were denied. After leaving the presidency Mbeki would later state in December 2007 that this was an error resulting in adverse affects for the South African economy.[10]

Construction work on the Medupi (pictured) and Kusile coal-fired power stations was started in the 2007-2019 period as part of Eskom's capacity expansion program following the energy crisis.

2007-2019 energy crisis and second expansionEdit

In January 2008 Eskom controversially introduced "load shedding", planned rolling blackouts based on a rotating schedule, in periods where short supply threatens the integrity of the grid. Demand-side management has focused on encouraging consumers to conserve power during peak periods in order to reduce the incidence of load shedding. Following the national power shortage in 2007 Eskom embarked on an aggressive electricity production expansion program during the administration of President Jacob Zuma. The Zuma administration decided to focus expansion efforts on building additional large scale six-pack coal-fired power plants.[11]

2016 onwardsEdit

In 2016 Eskom stated it intended to pursue a nuclear solution to the country's energy shortage. According to projections from late 2016, the use of nuclear power would provide over 1000GW of power by 2050. In preparation, the company has launched a training program for 100 technicians, engineers and artisans that will certify them as nuclear operators.[12] In January 2018 Eskom's acting Chief Financial Officer stated that the company cannot afford a new build, following a 34% drop in interim profits due to declining sales and increasing financing costs. The government stated it will proceed with the plan but more slowly.[13]

In 2017 Eskom was the focus of a major corruption scandal involving the Gupta family and the administration of then President Jacob Zuma.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa denied an application by Eskom to increase electricity tariffs by a future 19.9% for the financial year 2018/19. The regulator instead granted a 5.2% increase and gave a list of reasons for the refusal to grant higher tariffs that the South African newspaper Business Day stated painted "a picture of inefficiency, inaccurate forecasting and cost overruns" at the power utility. Part of the refusal was the finding that Eskom had an additional 6,000 employees that were not needed, costing the company R3.8 billion annually.[14]

In February 2019, shortly after the announcement by government that the company would be broken up, Eskom initiated another round of emergency load shedding. Eskom stated that the 2019 load shedding was initiated due to breakdowns at power stations as well as the depletion of water and diesel resources. Other reasons cited included legacy issues from state capture corruption, coal availability, and that new power plants such as Medupi and Kusile were not yet operational.[15][16] Corruption during the Zuma administration has been noted as a major factor in the cost overruns and long delays in completing Medupi and Kusile power plants that has had a knock on effect leading to the 2019 power shortages.[16] The power shortage and related troubles at Eskom was blamed as a significant contributing factor to a 3.2% decline in GDP growth in the first quarter of 2019,[17] prompting fears of a recession in 2019.[18]


Eskom's logo has been an integral symbol of the company since its founding. For a brief period in 1986 Eskom had no logo when it was moving away from the company's original logo of stylised letters spelling "ESC" within a circle to the more contemporary version with a blue shield with a stylised lightning bolt in its center. The 1987 logo was replaced in 2002 with its current logo that replaced the shield with a circle but otherwise keeping the logo as is.

Restructuring effortsEdit

"Eskom’s sales have been declining by about 1% per annum. The less it sells, the higher the tariff it wants, and the less it sells – the utility death spiral."

- Rod Crompton, Adjunct professor African Energy Leadership Centre Wits Business School, University of the Witwatersrand [19]

In his February 2019 State of the Nation address President Ramaphosa announced that government would be splitting up Eskom into three new state-owned entities focusing on generation, transmission and distribution.[20] This was done so as to better manage the serious operational and financial problems facing the company. By the time of the speech Eskom had a total debt burden of R419 billion[20] (US$30.8 billion) and was entering a death spiral whereby there was not enough revenue to make debt repayments.[19]

In a February 2019 briefing the Department of Public Enterprises stated that Eskom was "technically insolvent" and would not be able to operate past the next three months if it did not receive additional loans.[21] Finance Minister Tito Mboweni then announced in his 2019 budget speech that government would be providing a R69 billion rand (US$5 billion) bail-out to Eskom over a three-year period so as to stabilise the company's serious financial situation.[22]

In response to feared job losses resulting from the breakup the trade union COSATU organised a national strike and called for a moratorium on retrenchments in the private and public sectors.[23][24][25] This caused to the apparent abandonment of the government's company breakup and restructuring plans.[24][26] In July 2019 the outgoing Eskom CEO announced that Eskom had entered a "death spiral" and highlighted the need for the company to restructure.[26][27]

Installed capacityEdit


Eskom has 16,789,974 subscribers in South Africa, the only electricity utility in the country, comprising about one-third of the population.

Fossil fueled power stationsEdit

Power plant Province Type Date commissioned



MW (planned)

Status Notes
Acacia Power Station Western Cape Gas turbine 1976 171 Operational [28]
Ankerlig Power Station Western Cape Gas turbine 2007 1338 Operational [29]
Arnot Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1971-1975 2,352 Operational [30][31]
Camden Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1967-1969;


1,561 Operational [31][32]
Duvha Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1980-1984 3,600 Operational [31][33][34]
Gourikwa Power Station Western Cape Gas turbine 2007 746 Operational [29]
Grootvlei Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1969-1977;


1,180 Operational [31][35]
Hendrina Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1970-1976 1,893 Operational [31][36]
Kendal Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1988-1992 4,116 Operational [31][37][38]
Komati Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1961-1966;


990 Operational [31][39]
Kriel Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1976-1979 3,000 Operational [31][40][41]
Kusile Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired (2017–2021) (4,800) Under construction [42][43][44][45][46]
Lethabo Power Station Free State Coal fired 1985-1990 3,708 Operational [31][47]
Majuba Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1996–2001 4,110 Operational [31][48][49]
Matimba Power Station Limpopo Coal fired 1987-1991 3,990 Operational [31][50]
Matla Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1979-1983 3,600 Operational [31][51]
Medupi Power Station Limpopo Coal fired (2015–2019) 1588


1st Unit Operational [44][52][53][45][46]
Port Rex Power Station Eastern Cape Gas turbine 1976 171 Operational [28]
Tutuka Power Station Mpumalanga Coal fired 1985-1990 3,654 Operational [54][55]

Renewable and nuclear power stationsEdit

Eskom Generation's pilot wind farm facility at Klipheuwel in the Western Cape, South Africa.
Power plant Province Type Date commissioned


Installed capacity

(planned) (Megawatt)

Status Notes
Colley Wobbles Power Station Eastern Cape Hydroelectric 42 Operational
Drakensberg Pumped Storage Scheme Free State Hydroelectric 1981 1000 Operational [56]
Gariep Power Station Free State-Eastern Cape border Hydroelectric 1971 360 Operational [57]
Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme KwaZulu-Natal Hydroelectric 2017 1332 Operational
Koeberg Power Station Western Cape Nuclear 1984 1,860 Operational [60][61]
Ncora Power Station Eastern Cape Hydroelectric 2.1 Operational [62]
Palmiet Pumped Storage Scheme Western Cape Hydroelectric 1988 400 Operational [63][64]
Sere Wind Farm Western Cape Wind Jan 2015

(October 2013)

100 Operational [65][66][67][68]
Vanderkloof Power Station Northern Cape Hydroelectric 1977 240 Operational

Future projectsEdit

Eskom has a number of planned infrastructure projects to further expand electrical production.

  • Tubatse Pumped Storage Scheme - 1500MWe
  • Wind 500 - 550MWe
  • Tasakoolo Wind farm 200 - 200Mwe

Corporate affairsEdit

Eskom executives including Phakamani Hadebe (CEO), front row second from the left, at a 2019 public forum in Cape Town on Eskom's financial situation.

In 2011 eight out of ten Eskom board members were controversially sacked by the Zuma administration.[11] From 2015 to 2017 the Zuma administration appointed Ben Ngubane as chairperson of the board. Ngubane's tenure as chairperson was controversial for his involvement with the Gupta family and for attempting to blacklist newspapers perceived as unfriendly to Eskom.[69] During parliament's state capture inquiry in 2017 former Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi (2012-2015) testified that Gupta family member Tony Gupta made threats against Tsotsi allegedly stating that Tsotsi will lose his job as he was not 'helping' the Guptas.[70]

In 2016, Matshela Koko, former head of generation for Eskom, was named as acting CEO.[71] He resigned in 2018 after being implicated in awarding contracts to a company linked to his stepdaughter.[72] In early 2018, following the establishment of the Ramaphosa government, multiple members of the Eskom board and executive team were replaced by government due to allegations of corruption and mismanagement.[73]

Phakamani Hadebe was made acting CEO and director of Eskom in May 2018 as part of President Ramaphosa's replacement of the company's executive team.[74] A year into his term as CEO Hadebe resigned citing poor health and the difficult circumstances of the job.[75] His resignation sparked a debate amongst political parties over the difficult state of managing the financially strained state owned company[76] as well as the lack of political cover he was given to deal with labour unions and tackle corruption.[77]


In 2018 and 2019 Eskom's negative financial situation became serious as income outstripped liabilities and the company started experiencing trouble raising money to cover costs. For 72 hours between the 26 March and 29 March 2019 it was reported that Eskom had run out of funds thereby threatening to negatively impact the broader South African economy. The situation was alleviated once Eskom secured a R3 billion commercial loan which was paid back on the 2 April after the Reserve Bank disbursed R5 billion to Eskom through an emergency provision.[78] In July 2019 Eskom announced a loss of R20.7 billion due to the cost of servicing high levels of debt, the increased cost of primary energy and unpaid municipal debts.[79]

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Revenue (R billion) 44.4[80] 53.8[80] 71.1[81] 91.4[82] 114.7[82] 128.8[83] 138.3[84] 147.7[84] 164.2[85] 177.1[85] 177.4[86] 179.8[1]
Operating profit (R billion) 2.3[81] 13.2[82] 18.8[87] 16.5[87] 3.6[84] 5.1[85] 0.888[85] −2.33[86] −20.7[1]
Total debt (R billion) 105[88] 139.7[88] 178.4[89] 213.3[89] 236.7[89] 234.5[84] 277.4[84] 306.9[85] 336.7[85] 348.1[86] 387.2[1]
Employee benefit expenses (R billion) 20.1[82] 25.6[84] 25.9[84] 29.2[85] 33.1[85] 29.4[86] 33.3[1]
Number of employees 37,857[90] 36,547[91]  39,034[91] 44,913[92] 46,624[92] 46,919[84] 46,490[84] 47,978[93] 47,658[94] 48,628[2] 46,665[1]
Electrical output capacity (GWh)[a 1] 239,108[95] 228,944[96] 232,812[96] 237,430[96] 224,785*[97] 216,561*[97] 226,300[98] 238,599[93] 220,166[99] 221,936[99] 218,939[1]


In late 2016, Standard & Poor's Global Ratings downgraded Eskom's credit rating further into subinvestment grade cutting its long-term credit rating to BB - two levels below the investment threshold.[100] By 2017 increasing levels of debt and corruption scandals effecting the company has led investment bank Goldman Sachs to declare Eskom as being the "biggest risk to South Africa’s economy." The company had R413 billion in debt and planned to raise an additional R340 billion (US$26 billion) by 2022 thereby representing eight percent of South Africa's GDP. R218.2 billion of the company's debt consist of government guarantees.[101] Exacerbating the company's financial situation was a recorded R3 billion worth of irregular expenditures in 2017.[76]

On 28 March 2018 Moody's Investors Service downgraded Eskom's credit rating to B2 from B1 stating that it was concerned with "the lack of any tangible financial support for the company in the February state budget".[102]

Due to the company's large size and important role as the region's primary energy producer President Ramaphosa stated that Eskom was "too big to fail" as the reason why government had to continue to fund it despite its serious financial situation.[103]

Chinese debtEdit

In July 2018 it was announced that Eskom had taken out a R33 billion loan from the Chinese government owned China Development Bank.[104] The loan conditions were controversially[105] not made public with accusations that it was an example of debt-trap diplomacy by China.[106][107] During the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state corruption a senior Eskom executive stated that an additional R25 billion loan from the China-based company Huarong Energy Africa was improperly and controversially taken out by Eskom.[108] After the loan had been issued Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza stated to the Zondo Commission that Eskom would not be repaying the Huarong loan due to irregularities and corruption involved in the issuing of the loan.[109]


An election poster referring to the Eskom energy crisis in the run up to the 2019 general election.

Power shortage: 2007 - ongoingEdit

In the later months of 2007 South Africa started experiencing widespread rolling blackouts as supply fell behind demand, threatening to destabilize the national grid. With a reserve margin estimated at 8% or below,[110] such "load shedding" is implemented whenever generating units are taken offline for maintenance, repairs or re-fueling (in the case of nuclear units). From February 2008 to November 2014 blackouts were temporarily halted due to reduced demand and maintenance stabilization.[111] This drop in demand was caused by many of the country's mines shutting down or slowing to help alleviate the burden.

Load shedding was reintroduced in early November 2014. The Majuba power plant lost its capacity to generate power after a collapse of one of its coal storage silos on 1 November 2014. The Majuba power plant delivered approximately 10% of the country's entire capacity and the collapse halted the delivery of coal to the plant.[112] A second silo developed a major crack on 20 November causing the shut down of the plant again, this after temporary measures were instituted to deliver coal to the plant.[113]

In February 2019 a new round of load shedding began due to the failure of coal burning boilers at some power stations due to poor quality coal. This resulted in long running periods of level 4 load shedding across the country in mid-March 2019.[114] The situation at Eskom and resulting energy crisis became a political issue during the 2019 South African general elections.[115][116][117]

2017 corruption scandalEdit

Eskom was forced to suspend its Chief Financial Officer Anoj Singh in July 2017 when the Development Bank of South Africa threatened to recall a R15 billion loan if no action was taken against Eskom officials (including Singh) who were involved in corruption allegations involving to the Gupta family.[76] In September 2017 Minister for Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, instructed Eskom to take legal action against firms and individuals involved; ranging from Gupta family owned consultancy firm Trillian Capital Partners Ltd. and consultancy firm McKinsey to Anoj Singh and acting Chief Executive Matshela Koko.

A report compiled by Eskom and G9 Forensic found that the two consulting firms including Gupta owned Trillian made R1.6 billion (US$120 million) in fees with an additional R7.8 billion to made from future contracts.[118] An investigation done by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism found that the Gupta family had received contracts worth R11.7 billion from Eskom to supply coal between 2014 and 2017. With pressure for Eskom to sign the first coal supply contracts with Gupta owned entities being applied on the state owned firm by then President Jacob Zuma.[119] In 2019 South African Special Investigating Unit launched an investigation into corruption related to the construction of the Medupi and Kusile power stations as a cause of repeated construction delays and project cost increases;[120] this led to the investigation of 11 contractors for allegedly stealing R139 billion (US$9.13 billion) from the projects.[120][121]

Price increasesEdit

Eskom took out a number of loans to construct the additional capacity and significantly increased electrical tariffs by an average of 22% a year between 2007 and 2015 to in an attempt to offset costs.[122] In 2019 Eskom controversially applied to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) to increase tariffs by an additional 45% over the proceeding three years[123] arguing that it needs the increase in revenue to avoid a debt induced death spiral.[124] Eskom was controversially granted a 13.8% increase by NERSA in March 2019.[125] The South African civil society Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) stated that by 2019 Eskom's electrical tariffs had increased by 500% over the previous 11 years.[125] Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity stated that the increased tariffs will exacerbate urban poverty negating increases to South Africa's basic income grant.[126]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ All number are of total electricity generated and ready for distribution by Eskom. Numbers marked with a "*" indicated total electricity sold by Eskom as amount ready for distribution could not be found for that year.


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Further readingEdit

  • Jaglin, Sylvy; Dubresson, Alain (2016). Eskom: Electricity and Technopolitics in South Africa. Cape Town: UCT Press. ISBN 978-1-77582-215-8.</ref>

External linksEdit