Medupi will be running by 2019 - Cabinet

Cape Town – All six units of Eskom’s Medupi Power Station will be completed in the first half of 2019, adding another 4 764 megawatts (MW) into the national electricity grid, the cabinet said on Friday.

Started in May 2007, Medupi was supposed to be online in 2015, but strikes and financial hiccups caused a five-year delay. It resulted in Eskom’s load shedding programme being implemented to avoid a total blackout, because it did not have enough power capacity to cater for the demand.

The first unit of Medupi started commercially adding 800 MW last weekend, but had started contributing power during its synchronisation period from 2 March.

“During this period Unit 6 has been able to alleviate pressure on the national electricity system, helping to either avoid load shedding altogether or minimise its severity,” Cabinet said in a statement on Friday.

“The commercial operation of Unit 6 of the Medupi Power Station is a critical milestone in our effort to build new generating capacity,” it said, adding that President Jacob Zuma will launch this unit on 30 August.

Eskom said on Friday that it has managed to avoid implementing load shedding for 19 days in a row.

"Eskom has met the country’s electricity demand while operating its generation fleet in a sustainable manner for almost three weeks, resulting in no load shedding for 19 consecutive days," it said in a statement.

What caused the delay

Labour problems resulted in significant strikes and labour unrest during the construction period, which brought work at Medupi and Kusile‎ Power Station to a standstill. "Initially Eskom did not implement a site-wide labour agreement," said energy expert Chris Yelland in a 2014 Fin24 report.

"Conditions of employment of site labour were left to the many contractors, and this meant, for example, that workers doing similar work were being paid differently, leading to discontent."

Once completed, Medupi will be the fourth largest coal-fired plant and the largest dry-cooled power station in the world. The planned operational life of the power station is 50 years.

Koeberg unit to shut down for maintenance

Cabinet said Unit 2 of the Koeberg Power Station will be shut down for planned maintenance on 31 August.

“The unit is expected to return to service after three months,” it said. “The scheduled shutdown of Koeberg Unit 2 is part of Eskom’s overall maintenance programme for its fleet of power stations.

“Every 16 to 18 months, each of the two units at Koeberg is shut down for refuelling, inspection and maintenance. The routine shutdowns are scheduled so as to avoid having both units out of service at the same time and to avoid the winter months in each year.”