Jan Oberholzer is now going to help generate private power

Henry

Jan Oberholzer, who helped keep the lights on at Eskom for years, is now going to help supply the country with private power.

After 30 years with the power supplier, Eskom’s former chief operating officer has accepted a position on home soil with an independent power producer where he will further utilize his expertise in the energy sector.

Oberholzer was appointed as a non-executive director and chairman of Mulilo Energy Holdings’ board. He has held this position since September 1.

“It became clear to me a long time ago what my purpose here on earth is and that is to make a positive difference,” Oberholzer told RNews.

He believes his contribution at Mulilo, a truly South African company that until recently had to compete without any international help in the energy sector, will help him to achieve this goal.

“I am a South African and I am not going anywhere. If I can make a contribution, then I must. With the grace of God, I am able to add value (to South Africa’s energy sector).”

Johnny Cullum, CEO of Mulilo, says Oberholzer is the “ideal candidate” to provide strategic guidance to the company’s board, given his extensive experience in the field.

“Under his leadership, we are confident in our ability to further accelerate our contribution to a cleaner, more sustainable future that underpins economic and fair growth for all South Africans.”

Mulilo, as an independent power producer, concentrates mainly on renewable energy such as wind and solar power. The power producer has also entered into agreements with the Department of Energy to deliver power for public consumption, as well as for private companies that require additional capacity.

The Danish company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) recently became the majority owner of Mulilo and with this move CIP brought even further expertise and capital to South Africa.

Mulilo aims to develop, own and operate a total of 5 GW of wind, solar and battery storage projects over the next five years.

“It promises a lot for the future,” says Cullum.

Sustainable future beckons

After years at Eskom, Oberholzer believes that he has a proper understanding of what is needed to improve the country’s power situation. He believes his work at Mulilo will also help drive these improvements from the private sector.

“Mulilo is exactly what the country needs now – a decisive company that invests in long-term, diverse and sustainable energy solutions; who contribute responsibly to help our economy grow for the betterment of 61 million people’s lives,” he says.

“It is no secret that Eskom’s utilization factor is unsustainably high as a result of a system that has not been properly maintained for years. Eskom does not have the luxury of taking its units out of service for repairs because the demand is simply too high.

“Eskom’s focus is currently on ensuring that its recovery programs are successfully implemented, and until now its model of creating transmission infrastructure has been quite successful, but now it must allow private participation,” he says.

“We must move away from the Eskom of the past, where all the power is generated by Eskom alone.”

Oberholzer is hopeful that in five or ten years Eskom will finally – even if only partially – hand over the reins to the private sector. Eskom will then continue to be one of the important role players in power generation, but no longer solely responsible for power supply in South Africa.

Coal-fired plants are no longer going to become the main source of power generation at this time either. A hybrid model of power generation will be necessary to ensure a sustainable future in power generation.

“When I was approached for the position at Mulilo and I did research on the company, one thing stood out to me: Mulilo is looking ahead. The company strives for sustainable progress.

“I know I’m only going to play a small role in the future of power generation in South Africa, but I’m really excited about it.”