JOHANNESBURG Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. may have to revise the commissioning date for its Medupi coal-fired power plant to the first quarter of next year, according to sources familiar with the project.
Medupi construction has been at a standstill for more than a month due to a strike and subsequent lockout over pay issues, which has put the date for commissioning at the end of this year "under serious threat," an Eskom spokeswoman said, although the company has not revised the timetable for commissioning.
For now, Eskom is still officially set to commission Medupi in December 2013, she told AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.
"Eskom is reviewing its schedule as we speak, and they will make an announcement very, very soon about this," another source close to the project said. "This is a disaster for the country in more ways than one. Eskom wants tariff increases. If this gets delayed, that is a lot more likely to happen, plus we wont have the power supply we were hoping to get from Medupi at the end of this year."
South Africa has severe constrictions on its power supply. Ferroalloys producers have signed buy-back agreements with Eskom, under which producers have cut output and are selling electricity back to the Sandton, South Africa-based state energy group. Eskom is now seeking to lengthen the buy-back agreements (amm.com, Jan. 24).
Medupi is expected to ease some of the tightness in supply.
However, public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba conceded on national television that the strike is affecting Medupis completion date, and the government is considering more options to meet the December deadline, including making money available to increase the number of workers at the 100-billion-rand ($11.29-billion) project. "We will need more man hours on site to recover lost time and to ensure that the building process can make up for the weeks that have been lost during the strike," he said.
However, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) told Metal Bulletin that the government has remained silent.
"The government is not playing a role," Stephen Nhlapo, coordinator of base metals and energy at Numsa, said. "We see them talk in the newspapers, but we want them to come and talk to the people involved. There is no way spending more money on more people will help if the conditions on the ground dont improve."