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ESKOM As Brian Dames departs the lights go out Just prior to announcing his resignation as CEO of Eskom near the end of 2013, Brian Dames spoke with ESI Africa and provided insights on the global and South Africa’s electricity supply sector, as well as his view of Eskom’s role in the future. B rian Dames’s three year tenure as CEO of Eskom saw him attempt to stabilise the group and guide it through one of the most difficult periods in its history. Unfortunately during the final month of his tenure, March 2014, South Africa once again experienced rolling blackouts across the country. It was due to continuous rain affecting coal being fed into power stations. The Brian Dames ESI AFRICA ISSUE 1 2014 last time this occurred was in 2008. It was an unfortunate end to Dames’s tenure, but such is the no-win situation and pressures the head of Eskom faces right now. It did highlight perhaps why he chose to call it enough after a relatively short period as CEO. This is also a time when the electricity supply industry in South Africa and globally faces seismic changes. The emergence of renewable energy forms such as wind and solar on a large scale around the world has accounted for some of these seismic changes. A situation has emerged in the European Union and other developed world markets where base load utilities are finding their business model does not work as before, particularly with renewables eating into the business and profitability of gas powered generators. Dames says that there will be winners and losers, as the global electricity sector undergoes these changes. “The US with its shale gas revolution, which allows it to drive renewables aggressively, is emerging as a big winner. The EU is emerging as a loser due to the way it has dealt with renewables that has created uncompetitive subsidised energy with the obligation to uptake this energy. It is not yet clear what will happen in Japan, while China is doing coal, nuclear and renewables.” Dames believes that such developments will change the sector globally. “The US will start to export coal and it will impact steam coal prices. The USA’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities will be converted into export terminals and we will have global competitive gas prices.” He warns that South Africa needs to become more active as far as gas is concerned and have a clear gas strategy, one that starts with LNG in the medium term and looks at shale gas in the long term. “There is a lot of talk about the offshore gas in Mozambique and Tanzania, but we don’t know how much of that will become onshore gas supply in the region – as much of it may be liquefied and shipped out from offshore platforms.” The incorporation of information technology into all facets of society is another major driver of change in the electricity utility sector, and solutions based on this technology will usually be driven by a focus on cost reduction. Just 7