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Efforts underway to minimise Medupi delays

The delay has sparked fresh fears of nationwide load-shedding.

The Medupi power-station is the 4th largest coal fired power station in the world. Picture: Lesego Ngobeni/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Public Enterprises Department says tough action will be taken against those responsible for delaying the launch of the Medupi power station.

Minsiter Malusi Gigaba's spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said contractors who have failed to deliver may be fined or forced to pay back some of the money.

"Everybody's efforts at Eskom and at the department is about minimising the delay and trying to ensure we don't go back to the terrible situation we had in 2008."

The delay has sparked fresh fears of load-shedding and has led to the cost of the project swelling by more than R10 billion.

Tshwete says no major economic investments have been lost.

"I don't think that has been the prominent issue that it's been made out to be."

He says everything possible is being done to minimise the delay and those responsible will be dealt with.

In April, the minister boldly declared he would not tolerate any more delays at Medupi.

"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 to it would stick to its December completion deadline.

The first electricity from the power station was initially due to come online at the end of this year.

However the power utility announced on Monday that Medupi's unit six will only hit the grid in the second half of 2014.

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

Eskom has also blamed the delay on underperformance by contractors and critical technical challenges to the system controlling the power-plant.

The unit will add 800 megawatts to the power grid.

DOWNPLAYING FEARS

Eskom has downplayed the threat of possible nationwide load-shedding as a result of the delay.

It said while the situation remained tight, it was coping with electricity demand.

However, electricity expert Chris Yelland says the delay spells trouble and could lead to load-shedding.

He described the announcement as "a very critical setback."

Yelland said it's not something that one will just roll through painlessly.

Eskom's Paul O'Flaherty denied this.

"This situation puts a strain of about 700 megawatts of capacity that we're going to have to find for next year. We have a team in place to do that."

Eskom is due to release its annual results on Tuesday.

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