Part of Koeberg power station to shut down

While the addition of a much-needed 800 megawatts of energy to the South African grid is to be celebrated, it should be remembered that a section of Koeberg will shut down on Tuesday, taking with it 900 megawatts of power.

“Koeberg unit two is shutting down for three months for refueling and maintenance,” says Chris Yelland, energy analysts and director of EE Publishers. The publishing house publishes EngineerIT, Energize, Vector and PositionIT magazines.  

“So in effect, now, the impact of what would have been an 900 megawatt shortage is now, with the addition of the Medupi unit, a one hundred megawatt deficit.”

Yelland says consumers should also bear in mind that unplanned maintenance breaks have resulted in about 4 000 megawatts coming off the grid in the past few months, making it difficult to overplay the importance of the 800 megawatts the recently opened Medupi unit will provide. Medupi’s unit six in Lephalale, Limpopo was officially opened yesterday by state president Jacob Zuma, in what is the first baseload station to be built in 20 years by Eskom. 

The construction started in 2007 but strikes, ballooning costs and technical glitches have immeasurably hampered its completion. It is expected to be completed in 2019. Kusile, currently being constructed in Mpumalanga, is due to be completed in 2021.  Molefe promised a strict adherence to guidelines moving forward. 

Medupi’s first synchronisation took place in March, which meant that the unit was gradually being ramped up to the required 800 megawatts of power while undergoing tests and check ups. It reached full power in May although this was still not seamless.  “For Eskom to accept handover, it has to be running for 24 hours a day without tripping out, and that’s what they’ve been doing for the past few weeks, Yelland said.

The lack of load shedding in the past few weeks could probably be attributed to the dip in industrial demand due to winter shutdowns, which was likely to pick up again for the spring and summer season as the industries look to replenish their energy stockpiles, Yelland added. The shutdowns are attributable to the rise in electricity prices during the season. 

In his opening remarks at the opening, Zuma said “pressure is being alleviated on the national electricity system to prevent or minimise load shedding. This is a very important milestone in Eskom’s growth trajectory towards the 4 800 megawatt capacity that must be achieved at the completion of the other five units … 

“The coming onto stream of Unit 6 takes place at a most opportune moment for our country, during a difficult global and domestic economic climate. The GDP growth has contracted by 1.3% in the second quarter of 2015 after growing by 1.3% in the first quarter of 2015. Growth contracted in all sectors except for personal services and general government services.”

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Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.

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