Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has promised electricity supply returning back to “normality” by the end of 2024 when Eskom has completed the building and synchronisation of two additional generation units at Kusile Power Station in Mpumalanga.
Ramokgopa on Sunday, announced that Kusile has resumed generating 800MW at Unit 4 of Kusile after days of not a single generation unit being operational at the troubled power plant.
Kusile consists of six 800MW coal-fired generating units which could deliver a combined 4,800MW, but three units that were in service have broken down while two others have not been synchronised to the grid.
Ramokgopa reiterated that Kusile sits on the “critical path” to significantly reducing rotational power cuts which have crippled economic activity for years.
He said the return of Unit 4 will remove 800MW from unavailable generation capacity of 4,800MW due to planned maintenance, and add those megawatts to 27,000 of available capacity, taking it to 28,500MW.
“We are pleased to announce that unit 4 of Kusile Power Station that was put on planned maintenance has been brought back online this morning,” Ramokgopa said.
“We committed that unit 4 should come back on September 17, which is today, and I'm happy to say to the country that unit 4 is back,” he said.
“This milestone means generating capacity will be ramped up by 800MW into the grid, resulting in the reduction of one stage of load shedding.”
Kusile’s unit 4 was out for 20-day planned maintenance while unit 1, 2 and 3 have been taken out by the collapse of the flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) unit in October 2022.
The unit was connected to the national grid for the first time on December 23, 2021 and handed over to the generation division to formally be part of the Eskom commercial fleet in June 2022.
Ramokgopa said Eskom has been doing a lot of work to fast-track the return of units 1, 2 and 3 by reducing the timelines without compromising the engineering quality of the work.
“So we're able to say that we've been able to shave a month on the return of this unit. So the expectation is that we should be able to return this Unit 3 by October 14,” he said.
“The same is applicable to Unit 1. The stakes are complete. The cold commissioning, and the mechanical work is done. The civil work is done. So now they're going to get into a stage of hot commissioning, essentially now running the unit. And then they say they have revised that and then on October 30 we should get that Unit 1,” Ramokgopa said.
“The significance of this is that Unit 3 and Unit 1 will be received by October. Next month we get an additional 1,600MW. This is not new generation, so we are going to remove 1,600MW on the unplanned capacity loss factor and then that 1,600MW will be deposited on the available capacity.”
Ramokgopa said Kusile Unit 5 is set to be synchronised with the grid on October 28, and gradually provide megawatts online beginning by December while Unit 6 will come on in August 2024.
He said the finance minister has made the point that one of the structural constraints to the South African economy was load shedding, and that the impact of power cuts had pushed people into conditions of abject poverty.
“So we need to do something to resolve this load shedding, and we are saying that Kusile sits on the critical path,” Ramokgopa said.
“So we think we can allow the temporary intervention with the attendant mitigating measures, and we're committing that by the end of 2024 we will restore normality and ensure that you address the issues of load shedding.”