Kusile Unit 5 synchronised to the grid for the first time - Eskom

File photo of Kusile Power Station. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/Independent Newspapers

File photo of Kusile Power Station. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 1, 2024


Eskom is making headway in keeping the lights on in South Africa as it announced that Kusile Unit 5 was synchronised to the grid for the first time.

Eskom “is delighted to announce that Unit 5 of the Kusile Power Station Project was synchronised to the national grid for the first time on 31 December 2023 at 17h22,” it said in a statement yesterday.

The unit will contribute an additional 800MW to the country’s power system, which was never part of the Eskom’s grid capacity. It will supply electricity intermittently during the testing and optimisation phase over the next six months before being transferred into commercial operation and the capacity officially added to the current Eskom fleet.

Kusile Units 1, 2, and 3 were offline for nearly a year after a flue-gas duct collapsed in October 2022. Their absence from Eskom's grid played a major role in increasing levels of loadshedding in South Africa.

Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s group executive for generation, said “As part of the Generation Recovery Plan, the synchronisation of Kusile Unit 5 marks another significant milestone of sustainably improving our generation performance. This will contribute the much-needed power to the grid.

“We are encouraged that that this achievement of our recovery plan immediately follow the return of the three units that were brought online from end September 2023, bringing a total of 3 200MW into the grid, which will further improve the energy availability factor (EAF) and help strengthen South Africa’s electricity capacity,” said Nxumalo.

He said he was grateful for the commitment displayed by the Kusile Project team.

“Their relentless efforts in ensuring that the project is completed is highly commendable. I have confidence that they will continue to work with determination to successfully deliver Unit 5 to commercial operation,” said Nxumalo.

Calib Cassim, Eskom’s acting group CEO said, “The greatly anticipated Kusile Unit 5 brings hope to the people of South Africa as it helps power the nation and its economy. There is enormous effort made to continue the remarkable progress on the new build programme and the Generation Recovery Plan.”

Cassim said, “We remain focused on improving the performance of the Generation fleet to reduce the impact of loadshedding felt countrywide, and to lessen the costs on supplementing capacity using the diesel-powered plant.”

Eskom said progress was being made on the remaining construction and commissioning activities at Unit 6 and at completion, the station would consist of six units, which would produce a maximum 4 800MW. This would make Kusile South Africa’s largest construction project and would be the world’s fourth largest coal plant.

“In addition, the power station is fitted with wet flue gas desulphurisation (WFGD) emissions abatement technology in line with current international practice to ensure compliance with air quality standards. This makes Kusile the first power station in South Africa and Africa to use WFGD technology, which is used to remove sulphur dioxide from the flue gas prior discharge to the atmosphere,” Eskom said.

Also on a positive note, Eskom said repair works to the permanent stack for units 1, 2 and 3 were progressing well. Intensified efforts were also being made to return Medupi Unit 4 to service by end July 2024.

“This, together with the successful completion of Kusile Unit 5 and the return of the three Kusile units will further improve the energy availability and give impetus to Eskom’s Generation Recovery Plan,” Eskom said.

Earlier this month, the struggling power utility reported that for the six-month period ended September 30 plant availability continued to deteriorate, with the energy availability factor (EAF) declining to 55.3% and resulting in more frequent load shedding at higher stages on average than in the previous year.

In total, load shedding was implemented on 183 days for 3 578 hours during the period, which equates to 149.1 days.

Cassim said at the time Eskom was continuing to execute our turnaround plan to improve financial and operational performance in the medium to long term.

Eskom’s overall focus remained on improving the performance of the generation fleet to reduce the level of load shedding being experienced by the country, and to limit the amount spent on supplementing capacity through the use of the expensive diesel plant.

The news of Kusile comes hot on the heels of a statement by Eskom on Friday saying that it planned to continue suspending load-shedding until at least Friday, January 5 due to a consistent improvement in generating capacity.