Eskom announced on Tuesday afternoon that it had just brought its Unit 2 into commercial operation, adding a much-needed 800MW to the national grid.
The power station already has four other units in commercial operation, with only Unit 1 left to be put into commercial operation after being synchronised in August and feeding about 400MW into the grid.
Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza said it was a major milestone for the embattled power utility. He has said in subsequent media interviews that load shedding might now be avoided in future.
Earlier in the day, President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Medupi Power Station in Lephalale, alongside Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mabuza.
He highlighted that the station stood to be the world’s fourth-largest coal-fired power station once completed.
There was still work to be completed on the power station in order to have all units fully functional, and Ramaphosa confirmed this would be completed next year.
“It cost more than anticipated,” but the country had built a landmark achievement, he said. With its more than 4,000-strong workforce, he said government would not allow Eskom to be privatised.
“We are not going to sell Eskom. We owe a lot of money but we will continue to support Eskom for it to prevail. It’s going to continue being owned by government.”
Wearing an orange bib, the president told workers and staff that privatising Eskom would be like selling the family silver. “You don’t do that.”
The president said it was necessary to split Eskom unto three divisions – generation, transmission, and distribution – saying this was needed to improve its efficiency and make it competitive. “It is not privatisation.”
He said government planned to improve Eskom to be a global competitor.
“We’ve got to stay ahead while operating at the same level as others. We are not going to let Eskom go down. Eskom is too important to the life of our country.”
He signed off by thanking all parties who were responsible for building a “better Eskom”.
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)