With tariffs due to rise steeply for another three years and Eskom load-shedding yet again, it's worth asking if the proposed unbundling of the utility offers any kind of solution to its severe cost and competence problems. President Cyril Ramaphosa told SA in his state of the nation speech that the government was embarking "immediately" on a process of establishing three separate entities - generation, transmission and distribution - to bring credibility to Eskom's turnaround and position SA's power sector for the future. Finance minister Tito Mboweni repeated the "three independent components" message in his budget speech. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which opposes the plan, is now threatening a protest strike that will shut down power stations. But it's not the three-way split in itself that has the most potential to shift Eskom's performance; it's a plan, now two decades old, to pull out one of the pieces as an independent state-owned entity - the transmission grid. ...

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