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More setbacks for Medupi

Construction of the coal-fired power station will be delayed by another six months.

FILE: Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba and Eskom CEO Brian Dames inspect the Medupi power station on 11 April 2013. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The first electricity from Eskom's Medupi power station will only hit the grid in the second half of 2014, the power utility said on Monday.

It has blamed the delay of at least six months on labour unrest, underperformance by contractors and critical technical challenges to the system controlling the power-plant.

Medupi's unit six was initially due to come online at the end of this year.

The unit will add 800 megawatts to the power grid.

Construction of the coal-fired power station has already been halted several times in recent months, mostly due to labour unrest.

Eskom says a slower than expected economy is helping ease the pressure on the nationwide grid which has been particularly hard hit this winter.

Electricity expert Chris Yelland says the delay mean months more anxiety over power supply.

Yelland describes the announcement as "a very critical setback."

He says it's not something that one will just roll through painlessly.

"The cost of the project has gone up from R90 billion to R105 billion. So an extra R15 billion on the price tag."

'HEADS WILL ROLL'

In April, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said he would not tolerate any more delays at the Medupi Power Station.

"I wish to make it unequivocally clear that I will not tolerate any delays to the delivery of this unit. Necessary penalties will be at hand, Should any delays be experienced heads will roll."

The minister said completing the project was a priority and assured the public it would be complete by December.

"The country cannot afford any further delays. We've already had some before, but further delays will not be tolerated."

Gigaba met with unions and contractors who committed to finishing the first phase of the project by the end of the year.

"This timeous completion will not only contribute towards supporting governments economic growth and development objectives but will further contribute toward ensuring security of electricity supply to the country."

In February, Gigaba had to intervene during violent strike action at the station.

At least 46 workers were arrested after they torched an Eskom vehicle and damaged a police vehicle.

It is hoped the entire project will be completed by 2016 adding a total of 4800 megawatts to grid.

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