Eskom spent R64.7bn in five years on diesel to keep the lights on, says Gordhan

Pubic Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan indicated that the amount spent in the financial year ending in March 2024 was a draft and was still to be audited.

Pubic Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan indicated that the amount spent in the financial year ending in March 2024 was a draft and was still to be audited.

Published Apr 26, 2024


Eskom has burnt diesel to the tune of R64.78 billion in order to keep the lights on during load shedding over the past five years.

The power utility spent more than half the amount, totalling R44.63bn, in the last two financial years of 2022/23 and 2023/24.

This was revealed by Pubic Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan who responded to parliamentary questions from DA MP Farhat Essack.

Essack wrote to Gordhan asking about the amount of money spent on diesel for each of the past five years since May 2019 in the wake of Eskom’s increasing reliance on diesel to power its open-cycle gas turbines to plug the electricity generation gap.

Gordhan said a total of R5.8bn was spent on diesel in 2019/20, R5.75bn the following year and R8.6bn in 2021/22.

The power utility burnt diesel to the tune of a whopping R21.25bn in 2022/23 and a staggering R23.38bn in 2023/24.

Gordhan indicated that the amount spent in the financial year ending in March 2024 was a draft and was still to be audited.

About R6.5bn was recovered from the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).

Eskom has suspended load shedding for almost a month now, which has sparked speculation that diesel was being used to power the open-cycle gas turbines as a ploy in view of the upcoming elections.

Pressure is also mounting on Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to provide details of the amount spent on diesel since load shedding was suspended.

Earlier this week, Ramokgopa dismissed the suggestion that the suspension of load shedding was an election ploy and accused critics of weaponising it and of using it as a campaign tool.

“Now we are very close to an election, all we are doing is executing the plan we had set and suddenly Eskom is accused of many things.

“I can assure the South African public that the Eskom board will not do things that are politically shortsighted and will damage the South African grid,” he said.

But DA MP Mimmy Gondwe said after Ramokgopa and Eskom board chair Mteto Nyati failed to provide clarity on Eskom’s diesel use, evidence has since emerged that Eskom has been burning diesel at a rate and scale that dwarfs the annual budgets of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

Gondwe said the roughly R65bn spent on diesel over the past five years to fire open-cycle gas turbines equated to more than R1bn of diesel spent per month over the same period.

“Burning copious amounts of diesel at such unprecedented levels is unsustainable and partly explains why consumers were hit with double-digit tariff increases by Nersa.

“It is no coincidence that Eskom’s 31.4% tariff increase – spread over two years – was approved in the 2022/2023 financial year when diesel use almost tripled.

“This means that consumers are essentially being asked to subsidise Eskom’s failures as the entity burns more diesel to maintain an illusion of improving power supply,” she said.

Gondwe charged that if anyone was weaponising the load-shedding crisis it was Ramokgopa through his claims of improved generation capacity which were not supported or substantiated by facts.

“The simple question he should answer is: If Eskom had not made use of open-cycle gas turbines during the past 30 days in which there has been no load shedding, would Eskom have managed to keep the lights on?”

On Thursday, the IFP called on Ramokgopa to come clean on how much has been spent on diesel since the suspension of load shedding as Eskom has not tabled its budget for the 2024/25 financial year.

“It is incumbent upon the minister of electricity to come clean and not engage in deflection tactics, and clarify how load shedding is currently being avoided, including if planned maintenance has been suspended and if there are increases in diesel and coal usage.

“The IFP views the sudden suspension of load shedding as an election ploy,” spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said.

He insisted that the supply of electricity was an electioneering tool, but that putting the whole electricity grid under pressure for political expediency could have disastrous consequences.

Eskom was expected to host a state of the system and winter outlook briefing on Friday.

Cape Times