UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Eskom’s Medupi power plant
Eskom’s Medupi power plant

THE construction of the Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo is on a "tight schedule" to deliver its first power by the end of the year, Eskom said on Thursday.

"As Eskom, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that we deliver by its target," CEO Brian Dames told reporters after a site inspection.

"Most of the construction, as you’ve seen today (Thursday), is on track", he said.

The Medupi timelines were reviewed in November last year, and it was found that the target date of first power by late this year could be achieved with "significant effort".

There had been problems, including quality issues with regard to the Hitachi boiler contract and the Alstom system control and instrumentation contract, as well as labour unrest.

The first unit of Medupi would deliver power to the grid by the end of the year and the other five units would follow at six- to eight-month intervals.

During a site inspection, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said he would tolerate no delays.

"I have no intention of allowing any delays to the target of December 2013," he said. "I will tolerate no delays."

"Tough penalties" would be imposed on the parties responsible for delays.

Mr Gigaba said Medupi would supply its first power by December.

"We are doing all that we should be doing to meet our target." There were many risks, political and economic, if the project was not completed on time, he said.

Mr Dames said in December last year, Hitachi indicated that many welds on the boiler would have to be retested and replaced.

Hitachi Power Africa, which is part-owned by the African National Congress’s investment arm Chancellor House, is providing the boilers for the power station.

Alstom’s computer software system also failed its factory acceptance test for the third time in December.

"Both Hitachi and Alstom have now given us assurance in writing that they will not delay the July 2013 hot commissioning date, which would enable us to synchronise the unit for first power by the end of the year," he said.

"It is left for them to prove it to us ... We will hold them to that. We will do whatever it takes to ensure this deadline is met."

Construction at the site has also been hampered by workers downing tools. In January, Eskom temporarily closed the power station when contract workers went on strike.

Construction of the coal-fired power plant, which is set to be commissioned in 2015, was also interrupted when workers downed tools in September last year.

Mr Dames said Eskom was partnering with contractors and labour to foster improved labour relations.

"The labour unrest has impacted our project," he said.

Eskom would play a more active role, and an industrial forum had been formed to discuss and resolve outstanding issues.

"For this project to be successful ... we need everyone to be a part of that. We can’t have any more delays."

Sapa