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The Eskom 100 years history
The power utility Eskom celebrates its centenary, we take a look into what was once a promising state-owned enterprise of our nation.
In 1923, Eskom, previously known as Escom before the name was changed in 1987, began powering the nation when the Electricity Supply Commission was established.
Today, it supplies more than 80% of electricity generated in the country.
Dr Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl, a young scientist, was appointed by the then Smuts government to advise it on industrial development and became one of the principle authors of the Electricity Act.
It was van der Bijl’s vision that South Africa takes its place among the world’s leading industrialised nations
According to the power utility, it was van der Bijl’s vision that the Government Gazette of March 6, 1923, announced the establishment of the Electricity Supply Commission (Escom), effective from March 1, 1923.
Van der Bijl was also Escom’s first chairperson.
Eskom designed its first station, the Sabie River Gorge hydro station, which was completed in 1927, with its newest power station, Medupi power station, commissioned in 2021.
In 1999, the South African government proudly proclaimed to have the cheapest electricity in the world.
That same year, the power utility made submissions to government that unless urgent and large investments into new power stations were made, electricity shortages would be experienced by 2007.
In December 2001, Eskom was awarded Power Company of the Year Award at the Global Energy Awards held in New York.
While the power utility was celebrated at the time, years later, the company would soon be plunged into darkness.
Eskom’s Survival Depends on Debt Relief and Tariffs, CEO Says
Towards the end of 2007, Eskom implemented the first of what would become 16 years (and counting) of rolling blackouts.
During his State of the Nation address on February 9, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced government had taken a bold step and declared the ongoing energy crisis as a national state of disaster.
Ramaphosa also announced he would be appointing a new minister of electricity, whose role would be dedicated to ending the current load shedding crisis.
In the latest news, the US government has also gotten involved in expressing concerns over the rolling blackouts.
Last week, the US Embassy and Consulate in South Africa issued a security alert for American citizens.
The security alert is, according to the US, due to the ‘ongoing energy crisis’, ‘load shedding’ ‘and ‘controlled energy outages’.
It also took the opportunity to remind US citizens travelling to or living in South Africa that South Africa has a Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution due to Crime and Civil Unrest, as previously reported by media.
The US also asked its citizens to prepare in advance for power outages, including contingencies for communication and water.
Some of the emergency preparedness tips it gave its citizens include having a communications plan for when there is no or limited power, ensuring that they have necessary medications, personal hygiene supplies, and eyeglasses, and identifying safe areas around the city.
Eskom is currently implementing Stage 4 and Stage 5 load shedding.
This was after the nation was crippled by Stage 6 load shedding, which saw residents without electricity for four hours at a time, resulting in many South Africans being subjected to power outages of up to 10 hours a day