Eskom, South Africa’s beleaguered state-owned power utility, is in the news again, and this time, it’s a mixed bag of financial despair and nuclear dreams.

The company is on track to report a significant R15 billion loss for the 2024 financial year. Despite this, CEO Dan Marokane remains hopeful, believing that ending electricity blackouts could lead to profitability next year for the first time since 2016.

In an interview with the Financial Times on 6 July, Marokane expressed optimism about Eskom’s future despite its current financial setbacks. “We saw record use of diesel last year, hence record losses. But we’ve really cut down on diesel, so we should see a substantial financial improvement this year. If we maintain our trajectory, there’s no reason we shouldn’t even see a profit,” Marokane said.

To put things into perspective, Eskom’s R15 billion loss this year, primarily due to a whopping R33 billion spent on diesel, is still better than the R23.9 billion loss recorded the previous year. This hefty diesel bill was necessary to keep the lights on using open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs), but Eskom’s new strategy is yielding better results.

Eskom recently achieved a milestone that many South Africans thought was impossible—100 days without load shedding. This marks the longest period in three years that the country has gone without power cuts. “In the days before load shedding, this would have been a non-event,” Marokane quipped. “But considering the intensity and frequency of the cuts over the last two years, this really is a major step.”

On Sunday, 30 June, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as the new minister of electricity and energy, extending a role he had held for over a year.

In an ambitious move to secure South Africa’s energy future, Minister Ramokgopa is also pursuing a new 2,500MW nuclear power plant. This project, which he aims to get approved by the Treasury next month, is part of a broader plan to ensure energy stability and economic recovery. “There’s latest [nuclear] technology that is very rapid to deploy, relatively cheaper and more efficient. We must resolve the issues of who will operate the plant, but I think I can say before we even conclude that it will be Eskom, as Eskom has the experience, having done that at Koeberg,” Ramokgopa said.

If approved, the new nuclear plant would be larger than Koeberg, South Africa’s only existing nuclear facility. The project aims to use rapid-deploy, cost-effective technology, with Thyspunt near Jeffreys Bay being a potential site. This follows the collapse of the controversial R200 billion Karpowership deal, which faced numerous delays and legal challenges.

For now, South Africans can bask in the glow of 100 days without load shedding. And if Marokane’s optimistic predictions hold true, we might even see Eskom turn a profit next year (fingers crossed).