POLOKWANE – The completion of Eskom’s first mega-project in three decades – the 4764MW Medupi Power Station – will do little to end loadshedding in South Africa, according to energy experts.
The world’s fourth-largest coal-fired plant and the largest dry-cooled power station, located in Lephalale, Limpopo, attained commercial operation status on Monday, after much delay and a number of challenges. The latest estimates suggest a cost of R234 billion, although the project was initially expected to cost R80 billion.
In a statement, Bheki Nxumalo, group executive for Eskom’s group capital division, said the project is “an investment that will serve generations of the people of South Africa and power the economy for at least the next half-century.”
However, experts are less upbeat about the project’s potential to end loadshedding. South Africa has been experiencing occasional power interruptions since 2008, due to breakdowns at power plants as a result of poor maintenance and aging infrastructure. Power utility Eskom has also been plagued with corruption and mismanagement.
According to energy expert Roger Lily, electricity injected into the national power grid from Medupi will be undermined by “troublesome” older stations. This means that, even though its completion is a positive milestone, Medupi will make little difference to South Africa’s electricity woes.
“800 megawatts while lower than stage 1 load shedding, which is about 1,000 megawatts, is still good news. However, there is still unfortunately serious concern and that is, although this new power station is up and running, many of the older ones are still troublesome,” he told EWN.
Another energy expert, Chris Yelland, pointed out that design flaws have caused the power station to contribute as much as 25% less electricity to the national power grid than had been anticipated. He said that the station was not “really ready to be handed over” because “there are design problems that still have to be rectified, so they’re not performing as they should.”
Salaamedia’s Julie Alli spoke to energy expert Chris Yelland on News & Views. Listen to the full discussion here: