The country’s energy shortage is a serious obstacle to growth, said President Jacob Zuma on Sunday, when he officially opened unit 6, the first of six units at Medupi Power Station near Lephalale in Limpopo.
This comes after Statistics South Africa announced this week that the country’s GDP had contracted by 1,3% in the second quarter of 2015.
“Challenges in the energy sector, drought conditions and weak domestic demand all contributed to the contraction in the GDP growth in the second quarter.
“The energy shortage is a serious obstacle to growth,” he said. “In this regard, the opening of unit 6 is a significant achievement for the country. We are pleased that Eskom now fully appreciates the need to move with speed to ensure that there are no further delays at Medupi.”
Zuma said the country has experienced serious energy challenges in recent times. “The shortage of energy does not only cause enormous inconvenience to our people,” he said.
“It is a serious impediment to economic growth. The difficult economic global conditions and our energy shortage are a serious challenge for the South African economy.”
“[Now that unit 6 is operational], pressure is being alleviated on the national electricity system to prevent or minimise load shedding,” said Zuma.
The president celebrated the “light at the end of the tunnel” on a project that is on target to miss its original deadline by four years and which is running over budget.
“We have waited very long for this day, to begin seeing some energy coming out of this station,” said Zuma. “It has been a long wait since my last visit here in June 2012.”
Medupi, which is set to add 4,8GW of installed capacity once completed in 2019, is one of many projects set to boost the country’s electricity set-up, said Brian Molefe, Eskom’s acting CEO, at the same event.
Eskom’s historic capacity expansion programme will enable it to supply electricity without load shedding and will introduce electricity to households that previously had no access to power, said Molefe.
The capacity expansion programme will increase its generation capacity by 17,4GW, transmission lines by 9 756km and substation capacity by 42 470MVA once completed in the next five years.
Since inception in 2005, the capacity expansion programme so far added 6,2GW of generation capacity, 5 816km of transmission lines and 29 655MVA of substation capacity.
“This will enable us to provide security of electricity supply to South African homes and businesses, powering economic expansion and extending electricity to millions of households who have previously relied on other fuel sources for domestic cooking and heating,” said Molefe. — Fin24