Energy expert Clyde Mallinson said Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s claim that South Africa lost 1,000MW from the grid due to Komati Power Station’s decommissioning is “misinformation”.
Komati is one of South Africa’s oldest coal-fired power stations and was recently decommissioned to be repurposed to produce renewable energy as part of a global climate finance pact.
Originally, Komati had nine generating units with a combined capacity of 1,000 MW.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa recently said repurposing the power station is “an injustice unfolding at Komati in the name of the transition”.
“If I had my way, we would go and restart the units at Komati,” he said.
“We closed a power station which was the best-performing one when we closed it, and because someone gave us money and said decarbonize, we are getting 217 MW of alternative energy, and we removed 1,000 MW.”
However, Mallinson told Newzroom Afrika that the Electricity Minister’s description is misleading.
He explained that power stations have a specific lifespan. “Coal stations can last for 60 years, but then at 30 years, they have to have a major overhaul,” he said.
“They can then last for another period. Then they reach a cold stop date, where the guarantees of safety of maintenance on things like boiler tubes and pressure vessels expire. That’s when they plan to decommission the plant.”
Komati had been in line to be decommissioned for a long time and was finally decommissioned in October 2022.
However, in early 2021, only one of its nine units was still operating, as the other units were decommissioned over a period leading up to its final decommissioning.
Komati was, therefore, only producing around 120 MW by the time it was decommissioned.
“So, for the minister to say that we’ve suddenly lost a 1,000 MW from Komati was quite frankly misinformation,” said Mallinson. “What he should have said is that we’ve lost 1,000 MW over a period of time.”
In addition, he said Komati’s output near the end of its life cost the country far more than it was worth.
Mallinson explained that when a power station is being decommissioned, its other facilities, like water purification and some staff, must still be operational.
However, during this process, the power station only produces a fraction of its total capacity, making the electricity it produces considerably more expensive.
“If you’re only getting one-eighth of the output, your cost will be eight times as much,” he explained. “I estimate electricity from Komati in its last days probably cost between R6 to R8 per KWh.”