- Eskom has announced that after serving South Africa since 1961, the coal-fired Komati Power Station in Mpumalanga has reached the end of its operating life and will be shut down from midday.
- Unit 9 was commissioned in March 1966, the last of nine units that were built.
- Other units were shut down over the years as they reached the end of their operating life, a legislated requirement.
- The plant will be repurposed to renewable power generation using wind and solar technology plus battery energy storage. Read more
- The repurposing project is expected to cost US$ 497 million, the majority of which will be footed by the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).
The shutting down of the plant will not have a significant impact on the national electricity grid as the remaining unit was only contributing 121MW. Eskom has transferred the majority of Komati employees from the power station to support and augment skills in other power stations and areas of the business in line with operational requirements. No Eskom employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.
The decommissioning of the power station has followed a diligent process which comprised undertaking a socioeconomic impact study. Eskom has held extensive engagements with the employees, labour unions, the community and all affected stakeholders and communicated the requirement to shut down the plant timeously and clearly with everyone involved.
Komati is one of the power stations that were previously mothballed due to the country’s excess generation capacity in the early 1980s, the age of the station and the high maintenance costs. Unit 9 was then mothballed in 1989.
Subsequently, a decision was made to return Komati Power Station to service, with the refurbishment commencing on the 14th August 2006. Unit 9 was handed over to the Generation division on the 24thDecember 2008 and declared commercial on the 04th January 2009.
The end of Komati’s coal-fired journey marks the beginning of another exciting journey in the service of South Africa.
Eskom has developed a comprehensive Just Energy Transition (JET) Strategy which places equal importance on the ‘transition to lower carbon technologies,’ and the ability to do so in a manner that is ‘just’ and sustainable. The remaining employees will take part in the Komati Repowering and Repurposing project.
The power plant will be converted into a renewable generation site powered with 150MW of solar, 70MW of wind and 150MW of storage batteries, thereby continuing to put the site and its associated transmission infrastructure into good use and to provide economic opportunities to the community. A containerised micro-grid assembly factory has already been established on site.
The development of the Komati Training Facility to facilitate the reskilling, retraining, and upskilling of Eskom employees and members of the community, as appropriate, is underway. Eskom has already signed a partnership agreement with the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC) of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) to develop the training facility.
Funding for this facility, which will enable a ‘just’ transition for the local community following the decommissioning of the power station, has already been received from one of the developmental finance institutions (DFIs) and Eskom will make an official announcement in due course.
The Komati Repowering and Repurposing project is one of the largest coal-fired power plant decommissioning, repowering and repurposing projects globally and will serve as a global reference on how to transition fossil-fuel assets.
Author: Bryan Groenendaal