Brian Molefe and Lynne Brown. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Brian Molefe and Lynne Brown. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

PRIVATE sector participation would be essential for the new coal-fired power stations that the government aimed to bring on stream, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said on Thursday.

The private sector could also be involved in the demothballing of old power stations. Ms Brown said last week’s synchronisation of unit three of the R25bn Ingula hydro pump storage scheme with the network would add 333MW, reducing pressure on the grid and allowing Eskom to undertake its maintenance programme.

The scheme is located on the escarpment of the Little Drakensberg. Once it comes into full operation this year, the scheme will add 1,332MW to the grid.

Eskom CEO Brian Molefe said the construction was one year ahead of target. Delays since the project began in 2008 had escalated its cost from the initial projection of R17bn to R25bn.

Despite the Ingula scheme, coal has a place in the integrated resource plan and the government has often stated the next coal-fired power station would be undertaken in partnership with independent power producers.

Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said the utility was awaiting a directive from the Department of Energy with regard to new generation projects.

Eskom group executive for generation Matshela Koko said it would be "very naive" for Eskom to proceed with the proposed Coal 3 alone. "We have to share the burden with the private sector," he said. Instead of building power stations as big as Medupi and Kusile, Eskom would opt for smaller units using clean technologies.

Mr Molefe said Eskom was working very hard to conclude its construction of the Medupi and Kusile power stations ahead of target. The two projects and Ingula would add about 11,000MW to the grid on completion in about five years. SA would then have enough electricity for economic growth, and perhaps even a surplus to sell to its neighbours.

Mr Molefe noted the review of SA’s sovereign credit rating by Moody’s also involved a review of Eskom’s rating.