Hydro-power project: Construction of the Bedford Dam-Ingula pump storage scheme started in 2005 and was initially scheduled to start operations in 2012. Picture: SUPPLIED
Hydro-power project: Construction of the Bedford Dam-Ingula pump storage scheme started in 2005 and was initially scheduled to start operations in 2012. Picture: SUPPLIED

Electricity supplier Eskom has brought the last unit of the Ingula pumped storage scheme, a hydro-power station in the Drakensberg Mountains, into commercial operation, marking the completion of building activity at the power station.

The handover of the unit from Eskom’s capital projects division to the generation business unit increases the utility’s total installed capacity by 333MW, to nearly 44,000MW.

Ingula has four generating units of 333MW each and was the smallest of Eskom’s infrastructure projects under construction in the past 10 years. Its completion allows the
state utility to generate full revenue from the project, helping to finance its capacity expansion programme.

Until 2015, Eskom suffered almost daily load shedding as it had inadequate generation capacity to meet demand.

"This will further strengthen security of power supply to South African homes and businesses," Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko said.

Erroneously, Koko said he was "thrilled that we are on track to deliver all new build projects on line timeously".

Since the start of construction in 2005, the Ingula project has suffered major delays, and was initially scheduled to start operations in 2012.

Several delays, including one caused by the tragic deaths of six construction workers in 2013 and other cost overruns meant the initially budgeted R9.8bn ballooned to about R30bn.

The completion of the hydro-power station means Eskom now only has to focus on three major projects: completing
the construction of the Medupi and Kusile power stations
that will each contribute 4,800MW of electricity to the grid, as well as expanding the transmission network. All are at least four years behind schedule and have suffered major cost overruns.

The state-owned company plans to complete the current build programme by 2022, taking its installed capacity to more than 55,000MW

At the last update, Eskom said its estimated cost of completing the Kusile power station outside the Mpumalanga town of Emalahleni would cost about R125bn.

The Medupi station under construction in Limpopo is estimated to cost just over R100bn.

Among other things, the delays were caused by lack
of adequate pre-construction preparation on the part of Eskom, which had run out of generating capacity starting in 2007, when it was first forced to ration power supply.

The state-owned company plans to complete the current build programme by 2022, taking its installed capacity to more than 55,000MW.

Eskom is also angling to build SA’s next fleet of nuclear power stations, which would cost hundreds of billions of rand.

While Eskom has admitted it does not have the financial capacity to embark on capital building of this magnitude, the utility said it would lean on the government to boost its financial capacity for this purpose.

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