Grootvlei Power Station Re-opened

Balfour - Jacob Zuma has lauded the reopening of the Grootvlei power station, saying it will contribute to the easing of electricity demand by providing maintenance space for other power stations.

Speaking at the official reopening of the coal-fired power station on Friday, Zuma said government has prioritised infrastructure development because it is critical to enabling and promoting economic growth.

"The station adds to the progress we are making with Eskom's return to service projects, which also include Camden and Komati power stations. The reopening of Grootvlei and other build programmes will help us to reverse the electricity difficulties we have been experiencing since 2007," said Zuma following a tour of the plant.

The Grootvlei plant, which was built in the 1960s, was mothballed in 1990 due to excess power at the time. The plant, located near Balfour in Mpumalanga, is being returned to service following a R 7.2 billion upgrade.

The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) Director-General, Tseliso Matona, said the reopening of the plant was a special moment in South Africa.

"This is a special moment in South Africa that we should be proud of," he said in a packed marquee at the 1 200 MW plant.

The plant, which is located in a windy area, comprises 6 x 200 MW generating units. According to the President, the power plant has created jobs for 3 800 people during peak operations, with 1 100 employees coming from the local community.

"Additional electricity is a feat for [our] economy, job creation and improving the living standards of people. What we're seeing is delivery by the state," said Matona.

At the officially re-opening of the plant -- whose Unit 5 went into commercial operation on 18 July 2011 -- Zuma unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion.

The reopening of Grootvlei also forms part of the celebrations of Eskom's 90th year anniversary. Zuma lauded Eskom for its ability to continue providing reliable security of supply to the country and the continent for decades to come.

Grootvlei-Balfour railway line reinstated

In addition to the reopening of the plant, Zuma toured Transnet's Grootvlei-Balfour railway line, which is being reinstated. The railway line will be used to transport coal on rail instead of via road to the power plant.

The line will initially transport three million tons of coal per annum to the plant.

Shifting from road to coal will ease traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions.

"We expect the first phase of the project to be completed by December this year and the second phase by April 2014. Already nine kilometres of track have been successfully installed on this rail line, which will ultimately be 30 kilometres long," Zuma told the packed marquee comprising ordinary citizens and government officials.

"As we move towards marking 20 years of freedom and look back at progress made by the country, we proudly add the fact that 3 200km of new transmission power lines have been laid in the past few years to take energy to more parts of the country and ensure that rural communities increasingly have access to electricity," said Zuma.

Just over one million new households were connected to the electricity grid, with benefits to more than four million South Africans over the past five years.

"In the 20 years of democracy, a further ... seven million households were connected to electricity.

This is the second time Mpumalanga province is re-commissioning a mothballed power plant. The first plant to be returned to service was the Camden power station in October 2010. Zuma had delivered the main address at its reopening.

Among those who accompanied Zuma to Friday's ceremony were Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba and Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza.