Eskom’s Komati blunder
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said it was a mistake to decommission the Komati power station, which provided reliable power to South Africa.
The Komati Power Station was planned in the 1950s. Building started in 1958, and the first unit, Unit 5, was commissioned on 6 November 1961 and Unit 9, the last, in March 1966.
Komati has nine generating units with a total installed capacity of 1 000MW – 5 X 100MW units and 4 x 125MW.
It was mothballed in the eighties because Eskom had surplus capacity and built new power stations, including Majuba, which had to be in commercial service.
Komati’s first unit was returned to service in 2008 when Eskom started to struggle to meet demand.
It reached a landmark on 9 February 2012 with six units on load for the first time since 5 October 1989.
The power station performed exceptionally well, winning most of Eskom’s winter challenge awards for 2010. It also finished top in plant performance in 2010.
It continued its exceptional performance and outperformed most of the much newer Eskom power stations regarding its energy availability factor (EAF).
Despite its strong performance, Eskom decided to decommission Komati and shut the power station down on 31 October 2022.
“The shutting down of the plant will not significantly impact the national electricity grid as the remaining unit was only contributing 121MW,” Eskom said.
Komati is being converted into a renewable generation site powered with 150MW of solar, 70MW of wind and 150MW of storage batteries.
It is one of the largest coal-fired power plant decommissioning, repowering, and repurposing projects globally and will serve as a global reference for transitioning fossil-fuel assets.
Many people have criticised the decision to decommission Komati as it was one of Eskom’s best-performing stations.
Mantashe told Parliament that he would not have decommissioned the Komati Power Station if he had the authority.
“Komati was providing electricity at a 70% energy availability factor. Despite this performance, people decided to decommission it,” he said.
The minister said the power station will provide far less power through renewable energy than it did using coal.
“The decision to decommission Komati was wrong,” Mantashe said.