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Energy minister hopes load shedding-free days continue

Rolling blackouts have been avoided for 23 consecutive days and additional power's been brought online.

FILE: On Sunday, the Medupi Power Station's Unit 6 was officially opened. Picture: Freeimages.com.

JOHANNESBURG - Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson says she hopes the country will be able to avoid load shedding for months, and not just days.

She held a briefing on an upcoming international energy conference being hosted in Cape Town in October.

Rolling blackouts have been avoided for 23 consecutive days and additional generating capacity has been brought online.

Joemat-Pettersson says they hope to continue down this path.

"We are counting days to ensure that we have months without load shedding. The coming online of Medupi's Unit 6 is a move in the right direction."

On Sunday, President Jacob Zuma officially opened the unit and was taken on a tour of the power plant.

He said the opening of the Medupi Power Station's Unit 6 in Lephalale, Limpopo, was an important milestone in achieving Eskom's growth forecast of 4,800 megawatts capacity on the national grid.

Zuma was joined by Minister of Public Enterprise Lynne Brown and Eskom acting Chief Executive Brian Molefe.

It's hoped the Medupi construction, which is due to be completed in 2017, will grow the country's GDP by approximately 0,35 percent per year.

Zuma said the Medupi Unit 6 would stimulate the economy at a difficult time for growth.

"The Medupi Power Station, whose construction started in May 2007, is the largest coal-fired power station in our country. It will also become the world's largest dry cooled coal-fired power station."

The president said the construction of Unit 6 has created thousands of jobs and is adding the crucial 800 megawatts to the national grid.

Zuma said the construction of Medupi created 18,000 jobs with South African companies obtaining 62 percent of R75 billion in contracts.

INSURANCE PAYING THE BILL FOR DUVHA

Meanwhile, Eskom has confirmed insurance has been covering the costs for the broken unit at its Duvha Power Station but that the multi-billion rand repair work will take at least until 2017 to be completed.

Today The Star reported that the utility's insurer paid about R4,2 billion to fix the wrecked unit about five months ago, yet it is still broken.

More than 500 megawatts were lost during this incident, and earlier today a unit at Koeberg was taken offline for maintenance, meaning the power grid is short of another 900 megawatts.

Eskom has limited generating capacity and any technical breakdown means that the power grid can easily become vulnerable and plunge the country into darkness when load shedding is implemented.

While 800 megawatts has been added with Medupi's unit 6 coming online, a unit at Koeberg is down and now questions have been asked about why it has taken so long to fix a unit at the Duvha Power Station.

Eskom's Khulu Phasiwe says it will take some time to fix the unit but this doesn't mean customers have been affected.

"These units have to be custom designed and they take a bit of time. You need to issue a tender and that process is going to be activated very soon."

At the same time, several units from other power stations that were out on maintenance have been brought back online to stabilise the system, reducing the risk of load shedding.