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Kusile Power Station: Zero Output after 15 Year, R233 Billion Investment

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

One of South Africa's mega-projects, the Kusile Power Station, initially proposed in 2005 to remedy South Africa's impending energy crisis, currently stands aloof, generating not a single watt of electricity despite gobbling up R233 billion over a decade and a half, according to energy analyst Chris Yelland.

A masterpiece model of utility, Kusile was designed to comprise six 800 MW coal-fired generator units that would collectively empower the national grid with an impressive 4,800 MW of energy. Tragically, after a 15-year construction saga plagued by corruption, mismanagement, and workforce dissent, causing frequent delays and soaring overheads, just four of the plant's original six power generating units are in commercial service.

Although the project's expense has inflated to a staggering R233.4 billion, regrettably coupled with Medupi's unfortunate cost overruns, the entity has wreaked financial havoc on Eskom. The public, who patiently had bided time for 15 years, find themselves cornered. Having endured escalated electricity tariffs and onerous tax bailouts to finance the perilous project, South Africans now face the grim reality of a colossal energy infrastructure that yields no electricity.

Yelland revealed that every single one of the Kusile Power Station's six generator units remains desolate, contributing nothing to the national grid. Unit 5 is projected for synchronization with the grid in October 2023, ahead of being handed over for commercial service by the end of April 2024. However, even then, a six-month commissioning period is expected, where the unit will not consistently supply reliable electricity.

Even further down the line, Unit 6 is due for commercial service handover in February 2025, an extended delay that declines to add any value to the project. Yelland noted that these extended delays are exceptionally poor performance and are grounds for profound concern.

Yet, the Kusile Power Station's chequered past has not dented Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa's optimism in the plant's potential to alleviate the country's notorious load-shedding dilemma. Ramokgopa stated his firm belief in an improved national electricity scenario heading into the year's final quarter, founded on added capacity from Kusile Power Station serving as a buffer for escalated maintenance elsewhere.

Yelland, however, underlined that the units would not run at full capacity, due to emission controls and other constraints, thus cautioning against complacency in expectations over load-shedding alleviation.

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