Carol Paton Writer at Large
Eskom's Medupi power station. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Eskom's Medupi power station. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

The original intention of the Medupi mega-power station was to alleviate SA’s tight electricity supply system, but due to cost and time overruns — as well as design and technical problems — it has fallen far beyond its schedule and budget.

Neglected maintenance of Eskom's other plants has led to serial breakdowns. Load-shedding, which is implemented to stabilise the grid when demand exceeds supply, began on Sunday and is expected to last for at least the rest of the week.

Medupi and Kusile, at 4,800MW each, are to be among the biggest coal-fired stations in the world. Here is the timeline of the disastrous Medupi project:

• 2004:  Medupi project is conceived.

• 2007: First sod is turned. Medupi cost estimated to be R69.1bn (an earlier estimate of R24.9bn was for three units).

• 2007: Eskom announces that Japanese conglomerate Hitachi (in partnership with ANC investment company Chancellor House) will build the boilers. French company Alstom is to install the control and instrumentation system.

• 2007: The deadline to complete first unit is 2012; the entire plant is to be done by 2015.

• 2012 December: Alstom fails repeated tests of its system.

• 2013 March: Hitachi blamed for thousands of defective welds.

• 2013 March to May: Medupi is hit by a series of strikes.

• 2013 November: more defective welds discovered. Siemens is eventually appointed to work alongside Alstom.

• 2015: Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries merge their power businesses to become Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Africa.

• 2015 January: Hitachi fails steam generation test.

• 2015 August: First unit of Medupi is in full commercial operation.

• 2015 September: Hitachi is fined in the US for paying ANC-front Chancellor House a $1m "success fee" and $5m in "dividends"

• 2016: New cost estimate of R145bn (excluding R30bn for flue gas desulphurisation and interest costs)

• 2016 December: Second Medupi unit is completed

• 2018 April: Third Medupi unit is completed

• 2018: The three units experience frequent breakdowns and produce only 50% of the electricity they should

• 2019 January: Eskom informs the National Energy Regulator of seven serious design faults

• 2020-2021: new completion date for all six units.