As one power station opens another one closes, it seems. Eskom’s rare positive news cycle at the weekend with the official opening of the Medupi power station looks set to end prematurely, with the news that Koeberg will have to shut down tomorrow for maintenance.

President Jacob Zuma was on hand to cut the ribbon at the Medupi opening ceremony in Lephalale, Limpopo. Construction of the power station started in May 2007 but was halted numerous times due to various internal problems.

All six coal-powered Medupi units have a total capacity of 4 764MW, and all will be up and running by 2019. Barring any significant delays, that is. Medupi’s current contribution to the national grid is 800MW, according to a statement on the cabinet meeting of 26 August, 2015.

“Unit 6 was first synchronised to the national grid on 2nd March this year and has been producing electricity to the national grid intermittently whilst undergoing regular optimisation tests,” Eskom said in a press statement. “Once completed, the power station will be the fourth-largest coal-fired plant and the largest dry-cooled power station in the world. The planned operational life of the power station is 50 years.”

In other words, we’ve had plenty of loadsheding despite Medupi being operational for six months.

Meanwhile, Unit 2 of the Koeberg nuclear power station in Cape Town will shut down from tomorrow for three months of planned maintenance; the unit has a total power generation capacity of 900MW.

This is the second time this year that Koeberg has been shut down for maintenance –  the power station first went offline in February and only came back online in May.

During Koeberg’s first shut down, Eskom was forced to implement loadshedding due to constraints on the power grid. However, the company says the Medupi opening should ease pressure and help South Africa keep its lights on.

“The commercial operation of Unit 6 of the Medupi power station is a critical milestone in our effort to build new generating capacity to meet South Africa’s rising electricity demand,” said Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe. “Our capacity expansion programme, which is the largest in our history, will increase our generation capacity by 17 384MW, transmission lines by 9 756km and substation capacity by 42 470MVA once completed in the next five years.”

[Image – Eskom Twitter]