Medupi coal
President Cyril Ramaphosa at Eskom's Medupi power plant. Source: The Presidency

At the official commercialisation of the fifth of six units at the Medupi coal-fired power plant, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Eskom would be split into three divisions not privatised.

On Tuesday, at the official announcement of Medupi Power Station Unit 2 in Lephalale, Limpopo attaining commercial operation status, the president said Eskom would not be sold.

The president likened privatising Eskom to that of selling the family silver, saying: “You don’t do that.”

The president said it was necessary to split Eskom into three divisions (generation, transmission and distribution) to improve its efficiency and make it competitive. “It is not privitisation,” he said.

Progress at Medupi coal-fired power plant

According to the power utility, this achievement means that the unit moves from project status where it was tested over a period of time to being part of Eskom’s generation output contributing just under 800MW to the South African power grid.

Unit 2 joins its sister units, Units 6, 5, 4 and 3 which have been in commercial operation contributing a total of 4,000MW to the national electricity grid respectively. This leaves one unit to be commercialised, Unit 1, which was synchronised in August 2019 and is currently feeding an average of 400MW to the grid.

In a statement, Eskom expressed pride in its team at Medupi who has delivered the fifth unit with extreme dedication. “They have worked hard for long hours together with execution partners to ensure that testing activities are done thoroughly and successfully,” the utility said.

Eskom Interim Executive Chairman and Acting Group Chief Executive, Jabu Mabuza, said: “The commercial operation of Unit 2 is a major milestone that signifies the near completion of the Medupi Build Project with a bright promise of power to grow the economy of South Africa.”

He continued: “Medupi is the fourth largest dry-cooled power station in the world and building it has been challenging at times but we have forged ahead because we knew how important the project is for our country. We are therefore delighted that it is finally contributing the much-needed power to the South African grid and that it has brought development to the region and country at large.”

Commercial operation status ensures technical compliance to statutory, safety and legal requirements. This signatory milestone marks the contractual handover of the unit from the principal contractors under build project unit to its generation business.

President’s message during Medupi visit

Visiting the Medupi power station President Cyril Ramaphosa told workers and staff that Eskom would not be sold off or privatised.

The increasing costs of the Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations have put Eskom’s balance sheet under severe pressure. However, Ramaphosa put emphasis on its construction, saying it was a “great achievement” that South Africa and Africa should be proud of, reported fin24.

Ramaphosa was accompanied by Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan and Eskom acting CEO Jabu Mabuza.