Eskom trumpets Kusile Unit 5 coal power unit synchronised to the grid for the first time

  • State Africa’s state owned energy utility, Eskom, has announce that Unit 5 of the Kusile Power Station Project was synchronised to the national grid for the first time on 31 December 2023 at 17h22.
  • A fire broke out at the station in October 2022 damaging unit 5 and delaying its commissioning by 12 months. Read more
  • The unit will contribute an additional 800MW to the country’s power system which was never part of the Eskom’s grid capacity the utility said.
  • It will supply electricity intermittently during the testing and optimisation phase over the next six months before being transferred into commercial operation and the capacity officially added to the current Eskom fleet.
  • The 4800MW coal power station construction has been plagued by poor design, delays, massive cost overruns, corruption, fraud and alleged sabotage. Read more
  • Eskom overall is in a very poor state with unsustainable debt securities and borrowings at R442.7 billion, including the subordinated Government loan of R16 billion at 30 September 2023.
  • Arrear municipal debt remains an area of concern for Eskom and has escalated to R70 billion. Read more 
  • Eskom is the largest emitter of health-harming SO₂ globally. Read more

“As part of the Generation Recovery Plan, the synchronisation of Kusile Unit 5 marks another significant milestone of sustainably improving our generation performance. This will contribute the much-needed power to the grid,” remarked Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s Group Executive for Generation.

“We are encouraged that that this achievement of our recovery plan immediately follow the return of the three units that were brought online from end September 2023, bringing a total of 3 200MW into the grid, which will further improve the energy availability factor (EAF) and help strengthen South Africa’s electricity capacity,” added Nxumalo.

“The greatly anticipated Kusile Unit 5 brings hope to the people of South Africa as it helps power the nation and its economy. There is enormous effort made to continue the remarkable progress on the new build programme and the Generation Recovery Plan,” said Calib Cassim, Eskom’s Acting Group Chief Executive.

Cassim added that, “We remain focused on improving the performance of the Generation fleet to reduce the impact of loadshedding felt countrywide, and to lessen the costs on supplementing capacity using the diesel-powered plant.”

Progress is being made on the remaining construction and commissioning activities at Unit 6 and at completion, the station will consist of six units which will produce a maximum 4 800MW. This will make Kusile South Africa’s largest construction project and will be the world’s fourth largest coal plant.

Eskom adds that the power station is fitted with wet flue gas desulphurisation (WFGD) emissions abatement technology in line with current international practice to ensure compliance with air quality standards. This makes Kusile the first power station in South Africa and Africa to use WFGD technology, which is used to remove sulphur dioxide from the flue gas prior discharge to the atmosphere. However, the WFGD equipment has already failed in units 1 to 3 at the plant.

To allow it to utilise temporary repairs at its Kusile power station units 1 to 3, Eskom has been granted permission to bypass the plant’s Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) equipment and emit unabated sulphur dioxide (SO2) and increased mercury emissions, potentially up until 31 March 2025.

Related news: Civil society up in arms over flue gas desulphurization bypass to bring units online at Kusile

Unit 1 flue gas duct coupler to the chimney stack disconnected. Image credit: Karin Morrow – Twitter

SO2 is a dangerous air pollutant and the effects of the bypass will be devastating according to modelling done by the Centre for Research into Energy and Clean Air. The increased emissions from Kusile are projected to result in 670 excess deaths, 3000 asthma emergency room visits, 720 000 days of work absence and a societal costs of health impacts to the tune of up to ZAR 24 billion. The modelling also shows deficiencies and outdated assumptions in a Health Impact Assessment submitted by Eskom to support its application. In addition to the 6-fold increasein SO2 emissions (an excess of 280 000 tonnes), bypassing the FGD will also see a 40% increase in the emission of mercury – a potent neurotoxin which persists in the environment for years.   

The costs of the temporary repair have been reported to be in the order of R250 million and this figure will rise. The costs of the permanent repair to the failed stack are not being disclosed by Eskom, making a sound cost-benefit assessment by interested and affected parties impossible.

Read: Eskom Media Statement – Kusile Unit 5 synchronised to the grid for the first time

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

 

Leave A Reply

About Author

Green Building Africa promotes the need for net carbon zero buildings and cities in Africa. We are fiercely independent and encourage outlying thinkers to contribute to the #netcarbonzero movement. Climate change is upon us and now is the time to react in a more diverse and broader approach to sustainability in the built environment. We challenge architects, property developers, urban planners, renewable energy professionals and green building specialists. We also challenge the funding houses and regulators and the role they play in facilitating investment into green projects. Lastly, we explore and investigate new technology and real-time data to speed up the journey in realising a net carbon zero environment for our children.

Receive the week’s most popular stories in your inbox every Saturday morning