Goodbye Komati Power Station — Eskom shuts down oldest coal power plant after 61 years

Eskom has announced the shutdown of the last of the generating units at its 61-year-old Komati Power Station on Monday.

“After serving South Africa since 1961, the coal-fired Komati Power Station in Mpumalanga has today reached the end of its operating life and has been shut down from midday,” the utility said in a statement.

Komati Unit 9 was the station’s last to be commissioned, entering service in March 1966.

The other units were shut down over the years as they reached the end of their working life.

The station took eight years to finish from site levelling to Unit 9 entering commercial operation.

It cost an estimated R80 million to build and was capable of generating 1,000MW of electricity at peak output.

However, it was mothballed in the early 1980s due to an oversupply of electricity in the country, the age of the station and high maintenance costs.

South Africa’s developing energy crisis, which gave rise to the first appearance of load-shedding, saw the station being brought back into service.

Unit 9 began refurbishment in 2006 and was brought back into commercial service in January 2009.

Eskom said the plant’s shutdown would not significantly impact the national electricity grid as the remaining unit only contributed 121MW.

For reference, one stage of load-shedding sees electricity demand equal to around eight times that capacity shed from the grid.

Eskom also said no employees would lose their jobs due to the closure.

“Eskom has transferred the majority of Komati employees from the power station to support and augment skills in other power stations and areas of the business in line with operational requirements.”

Komati is going green

The remaining employees will participate in the Komati Repowering and Repurposing project, which will see the station converted into a renewable generation site.

It will comprise the installation of 150MW of solar generation, 70MW of wind energy, and 150MW of storage batteries that will help ensure its associated transmission infrastructure is put to good use.

The site already has a containerised microgrid assembly factory on site.

Eskom said the project was one of the largest coal-fired power plant decommissioning, repowering and repurposing projects globally and would serve as a global reference on how to transition fossil-fuel assets.

It forms part of the utility’s Just Energy Transition Strategy, which it says “places equal importance on the ‘transition to lower carbon technologies’ and the ability to do so in a manner that is ‘just’ and sustainable.”

Eskom has also partnered with the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (Saretec) of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) to develop a training facility to reskill its employees to work on renewable power.

The shutdown of Komati comes mere days before the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, referred to as COP27, where South Africa is set to table its plan to transition from fossil fuels to green energy using R155.59 billion in funding from several rich nations.

The funding, announced by US President Joe Biden in November 2021, will come in the form of grants and concessional finance over the next three to five years.

It aims to accelerate the shutdown of Eskom’s coal power stations and a switchover to renewable power like solar and wind.

According to Mining.com, South Africa is currently the world’s 13th-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, primarily due to its reliance on coal for the vast majority of electricity generation.


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Goodbye Komati Power Station — Eskom shuts down oldest coal power plant after 61 years