19 February 2007
State-owned electricity company Eskom has made “significant progress” in a R97-billion programme to revamp South Africa’s electricity infrastructure, says Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin.
Briefing journalists in Cape Town last Monday, Erwin said spending on Eskom’s build programme amounted to about R11-billion so far, with three coal-fired power stations which were mothballed in 1990 about to come back on stream to meet the country’s rampant energy demands.
The return to service of the coal-fired stations at Camden, Grootvlei and Komati – all in coal-producing Mpumalanga province – are expected to meet previously set deadlines for recommissioning.
According to Erwin, the 1 600MW Camden station will once more be contributing to SA’s national grid by the end of March, the 1 200MW Grootvlei plant will be back on stream by the end of May, and the 1 000MW Komati plant is expected to be back in action by September.
At the same time, four gas turbine power stations – at Atlantis outside Cape Town, and Mossel Bay on the east coast – are expected to be back in operation by May, providing further peaking capacity of around 1 050MW.
In addition, Erwin confirmed that South Africa would be building a second conventional nuclear power plant in one of the three Cape provinces – Northern Cape, Eastern Cape or Western Cape.
A demonstration model of a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor – with planned capacity of about 165MW – is also under construction at the site of South Africa’s only existing conventional nuclear reactor, Koeberg in Cape Town.
All these interventions are expected to add thousands of megawatts over the short term to the country’s electricity grid which, with its capacity currently stretched to a limit of between 37 500MW and 40 000MW, is in “a tight supply” situation.
Erwin said the government would be making other, long-term infrastructural adjustments over the next 10 to 20 years that would resolve this tight supply scenario, which he attributed to the high energy demands resulting from the country’s rapid economic growth.
The South African economy is currently going through the longest sustained upswing in its history. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth, which was less than one percent a year between 1994 and 2003, accelerated to 3.1% in 2003, 4.8% in 2004 and 5.1% in 2005.
Eskom is the eleventh-largest electricity utility in the world and the biggest power supplier in Africa, supplying about 63% of the continent’s needs and about 95% of the electricity consumed in South Africa.