Eskom's chief executive, Brian Molefe. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Parliament – South Africa should have excess electricity by 2021 as Eskom accelerates its build programme, the power utility’s chief executive Brian Molefe said on Thursday.

“In five years time we think South Africa will have surplus electricity… that can either be used to grow the economy or sold in Southern Africa…,” Molefe said while addressing a joint media briefing with Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.

The two announced that the Ingula Pump Storage Scheme, a hydro-electric project in KwaZulu-Natal, would be delivered a year ahead of schedule.

“Today I would like to announce that unit 3 of Ingula was successfully synchronised to the grid on the 6th of March. This means that an additional 330 megawatts capacity will be available to the grid as commissioning progresses towards the unit’s full commercial operation in January 2017,” said Brown.

“This significant milestone allows Eskom to continue its maintenance programme and reduce pressure on the grid.”

Ingula has four units, each able to provide 333 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

Unit three was meant to come on line by March next year, but is already adding power to the grid.

Molefe said with the other three units were expected to come on line before year end, another 1300 MW of electricity would be available for distribution to power users.

“We’re pumping water up as we speaking and we are testing machine number 3, but machine number 1, 2 and 4 have also been installed. They will be commissioned and by the end of the year all four of them will be working and in commercial operation, generating 333 by four MW… and this is one year ahead of schedule,” said Molefe.

The Ingula project would help Eskom reduce its reliance on open-cycle gas turbines which are costly to run as a result of the diesel price.

“In fact we relying on machine number three and machine number four to help us through winter so they will be avaiable to take us through the winter period which will allow us to use less diesel going forward,” said Molefe.

“In fact the diesel machines will be parked and only turned on if we really need them.”

Molefe this week assured the country that Eskom would have enough power to keep the lights on throughout winter when South Africans generally consume more electricity.