Eskom Hld SOC Ltd or Eskom (Afrikaans: Elektrisiteitsvoorsieningskommissie) is a South African electricity public utility. Eskom was established in 1923 as the Electricity Supply Commission (ESCOM). Eskom represents South Africa in the Southern African Power Pool. The utility is the largest producer of electricity in Africa, and was among the top utilities in the world in terms of generation capacity and sales. It is the largest of South Africa’s state owned enterprises. Eskom operates a number of notable power stations, including Matimba Power Station and Medupi Power Station in Lephalale, Kusile Power Station in Witbank, Kendal Power Station, and Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in the Western Cape Province, the only nuclear power plant in Africa.
The company is divided into Generation, Transmission and Distribution divisions, and together Eskom generates approximately 95% of electricity used in South Africa, amounting to ~45% used in Africa, and emits 42% of South Africa’s total greenhouse gas emissions. By releasing 1.6 million tons of sulphur dioxide into the air in 2019, Eskom is also the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide in the power industry in the world. Eskom has periodically implemented rolling blackouts since January 2008, a practice ascribed to basic dereliction of duty by former president Thabo Mbeki. Implementation of new generating capacity during this period was fraught with delays and cost overruns which brought the utility to the brink of bankruptcy. In 2019, it was announced that Eskom was to be split up into three distinct nationally owned entities due to huge debts and poor reliability of supply.
At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, a deal was announced for developed countries to fund South Africa’s transition from coal power to renewable energy. However, employment in the mining sector threatens this transition.
Prior to the establishment of Eskom, the provision of electricity was dominated by municipalities and private companies. The city of Kimberley was one of the first users of public electricity when it installed electric streetlights in 1882 to reduce crime at night.: 5  This was followed by Cape Town in 1895 with the construction of the Graaff Electric Lighting Works to power 775 street lights.
Eskom was founded by the Electricity Act of 1922 which allowed the South African Electricity Control Board to appoint Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl as chairman. The company changed its name by combining the two acronyms in its previous name (ESCOM and EVKOM) in 1987 to become known as Eskom.
The Electricity Act stated that Eskom could only sell electricity at cost and was exempted from tax with the firm initially raising capital through the issuing of debentures, later issuing state-guaranteed loans instead. The coal-fired Congella Power Station in Durban and Salt River Power Station in Cape Town were the first power stations built by Eskom, both complete in mid-1928.
One of Eskom’s first power plants was a coal-fired 128 MW station in Witbank, completed in 1935 to provide power to the mining industry. The plant was built and run in partnership with the privately owned Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company, which owned a number of other power plants across the country. Thanks to state support, Eskom was able to buy out the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company in 1948 for £14.5 million (roughly equivalent to £2.55 billion in 2017). Following World War 2, South Africa experienced power shortages that led to Eskom negotiating power saving agreements with the mining industry in June 1948.
First expansion period: 1960-1994
From 1960 to 1990 Eskom increased its installed power production capacity from 4,000 MW to 40,000 MW so as to keep up with rapid economic growth in the 1960s and 70s. During the same period, Eskom established a nationwide 400 kV power network. During this period the company built a number of large standardised coal-fired power plants that could produce power at very low cost due to the large economies of scale. These plants were known colloquially as “six-packs” for the 6 large generator units they were designed to accommodate.
In 1974 the company was instructed to start work on Koeberg nuclear power station to both provide power to Cape Town and help facilitate the South African government’s nuclear program.
In 1981 Eskom was involved in one of its first large financial scandals when its Assistant Chief Accountant was caught embezzling R8 million from the company (equivalent to roughly R164.37 million in 2018).
During the 1970s the company controversially sought to increase electrical tariffs to help pay for its large expansion plans. Due to its financial situation, the government appointed Dr. W.J. de Villiers to chair a commission that recommended a number of financial and organisational changes for the company to adopt. This led to the company abandoning its no-profit objective and to raise funds by taking out international loans. The number of Eskom employees was also reduced from 66,000 to 60,000 in the late-1980s.
Post-1994 election period: 1994-2007
Following democratic elections in 1994 and the start of the Mandela government the company changed focus to electrification of previously neglected residential homes and to provide low cost electricity for economic growth. Following the passing of the 1998 Eskom Amendment Act government’s powers to influence company policy and investment decisions were greatly expanded. Due to the South African government’s attempted privatisation of Eskom in the late 1990s during the administration of President Thabo Mbeki, Eskom requests for budget to build new stations were denied. After leaving the presidency, Mbeki would later state in December 2007 that this was an error, resulting in adverse affects for the South African economy.