No power from Kusile after R233 billion and 15 years of construction

Energy analyst Chris Yelland said not a single generation unit at the Kusile Power Station is generating electricity despite an investment of R233 billion and 15 years of construction.

Plans to construct the new mega coal-fired power station started around 2005 as part of a proposal to address South Africa’s looming energy crisis.

Kusile was designed to consist of six 800 MW coal-fired generating units which could deliver a combined 4,800 megawatts.

Construction started in August 2008, and it was initially expected to take six years to complete at a cost of R81 billion.

However, widespread corruption, mismanagement, and worker unrest have caused numerous delays and cost overruns.

It is now 15 years after construction on the power station started, and only four of its units are in commercial service.

The cost of the project has also ballooned to R233.4 billion. Combined with Medupi’s cost overruns, it has basically bankrupted Eskom.

The worst part is that after waiting for fifteen years and funding the disastrous project through higher electricity prices and tax bailouts, Kusile is not producing any electricity.

Yelland revealed that not a single unit of the six generating units at the Kusile Power Station is generating electricity to feed into the grid.

  • Units 1, 2, and 3 were in service but have broken down.
  • Unit 4 is down for routine maintenance.
  • Units 5 and 6 have not been synchronised to the grid.

Yelland said Kusile Unit 5 is set to be synchronised with the grid in October 2023. However, it will only be handed over for commercial service at the end of April 2024.

There is a six-month commissioning period during which the unit will not provide reliable, consistent electricity. “It will be on and off all the time,” Yelland said.

Unit 6 is set to be handed over for commercial service in February 2025, which means it is another year and a half before it will add value.

“That is an exceptionally poor performance, and we should be very disturbed about the situation at Kusile,” Yelland said.

“After 15 years of construction, it is completely unacceptable and out of line with any known standard.”

Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

Kusile’s disastrous past does not dampen Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s trust that the power station will help to resolve load-shedding.

This week, Ramokgopa said he was confident that South Africa’s electricity situation will improve heading into the last quarter of the year.

This was based on the Kusile Power Station adding additional capacity to the grid, providing a buffer for increased maintenance elsewhere.

He said Kusile Units 1, 2, 3, and 5 are set to return to service by the end of November, which gives them around 3,000 MW of additional capacity.

Ramokgopa arrived at the 3,000 MW generation capacity by multiplying the four units with their peak capacity of 720 MW per unit.

However, Yelland highlighted that three of Kusile’s generation units will not run at full capacity because of emission controls and other constraints.

“They will run at a maximum of 550 MW, which is considerably lower than 710 MW,” he said.

Another concern is that they will not continuously run at the planned 710 MW, or even 550 MW, if their historical performance is anything to go by.

“We may only get a 50% energy availability factor from Kusile, which is about 350 MW per unit. The three units will, therefore, offer around 1,000 MW and reduce one stage of load-shedding.”

With this reality in mind, Yelland cautioned people to be conservative when it comes to pronouncements about load-shedding.


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