At the dawn of democracy the ANC-Government set an objective to improve the lives of ordinary South Africans through the provision of basic services and creation of decent employment opportunities. Energy is the life blood of development and is an enabler to the reducing poverty and increasing access to basic services.
The end of apartheid and the election of a new democratic Government in 1994 provided the impetus for all policy and institutional shifts underpinning the electrification programme. These shifts were necessary to address the historical racially-based disparity in the provision of key infrastructure. In 1994, only 34% of South Africans had access to electricity, the majority of which were white people. With the dawn of democracy came the added responsibility to connect every household which was denied access to the grid under the Apartheid regime. This essentially required that additional transmission and distribution infrastructure be made available to cater to the increased demand of connecting millions of households to the grid. This demand continued to increase without the requisite supply options being secured as the new democratic Government had to balance the cost of delivering many key priorities for a democratic South Africa including the provision of adequate health, education infrastructure and basic services to cater for the many millions of South Africans previously not catered for. Since 1994, over 89% of households now have access to electricity.
The historic disparity in delivering key infrastructure projects to the majority of South Africans has a significant bearing on the energy challenges experienced today
In 2005, Eskom was given an enormous mandate to construct major power stations in order to match the growing demand for energy due to the upswing in the economy and the rollout of the electrification programme.
In May 2007 construction started at Medupi Power Station in Lephalale, Limpopo. A week ago residents of Lephalale, Limpopo took centre stage when President Jacob Zuma joined dignitaries and the community in celebrating the commercial operation of Unit 6 of Medupi Power Station.
President Zuma said: “Pressure is being alleviated on the national electricity system to prevent or minimise load shedding. This is a very important milestone in Eskom’s growth trajectory towards the 4800 megawatt capacity that must be achieved at the completion of the other five units. The Medupi project is a living example of the pervasive impact and potential of our infrastructure projects with regard to stimulating the local economies, as it is the case here in Lephalale.
“The construction of this site jerked the economy of this area very significantly, in terms of job creation mainly, infrastructure development and social investment. The town of Lephalale’s GDP for example, has increased by about 95% per year as a result of the constructions.”
Unit 6 was first synchronised to the national grid on 2 March 2015. Medupi Unit 6, attained full power (800 MW) generated on 26 May 2015 and commercial operation on 23 August 2015.
One was dwarfed by the gigantic units towering over us. To give an example of its enormity the boiler house stands approximately 130m in height, equivalent to Sandton City in Johannesburg, while the pressure parts of the boiler are designed to last for 200 000 hours.
Further, more steel is being used than in the world’s tallest building, the Burj in Dubai. The Unit 6 boiler has so far used 20 200 tons of structural steel.Upon completion, Medupi will be the fourth-largest coal-fired plant and the largest dry-cooled power station in the world. This mega-project contributed to the creation of the first post-apartheid town. I can proudly say that Medupi Power Station has not only changed the landscape, but this sleeping giant in the north, will rank amongst the biggest achievements of the ANC-led Government.
Eskom currently has three mega projects in Medupi, Kusile and Ingula. The latter two are expected to become commercially operational from 2016.
In a similar fashion when the country experienced load shedding in the last quarter of 2014, Government came up with its five-point plan to address this shortage on the grid. The acceleration of Eskom’s build-programme was one of the key matters. The synchronisation of Medupi Unit’s 6 and its subsequent commercialisation became critical as part of the five-point plan.
Medupi Power Station is not only about brick and mortar. To build a structure of this magnitude, you need people. The ANC-led Government is committed to ensure that local people benefit at all times from capex programmes.
Eskom has invested R2.3billion in infrastructure development in Lephalale. This includes the building of 995 houses and the purchasing of a further 321 houses. Lephalale’s two sewage plants were upgraded and the provincial road that passed near the power station was diverted. Eskom also spent in the region of R815million on local site procurement contracts.
Skills development remains an integral part of this mega-project. To achieve the vision of skills development, the project has placed contractual obligations on its contractors to train 2 197 candidates in various trades and professions specific to the project, including, but not limited to, boiler making, coded welding, engineering, etc. To date, 2 513 people have completed their training and the majority of those are working within the project. This is a legacy of skills that will make people employable after construction is completed.
Furthermore, the Medupi Legacy Programme has invested R4.4billion in procurement and infrastructure development as part of Eskom’s goal of ensuring a positive socio-economic legacy for the area and its communities.The Medupi Legacy Programme has focused on ensuring localization of business. Contracts worth more than R83million have been awarded to businesses that are owned or controlled by black women, including security, general maintenance, housekeeping and landscaping.
To date, the Medupi Legacy Project:
- Trained 38 business owners over the past two years, with another 15 currently in training.
- Suppliers trained 700 artisans in boiler-making, coded welding and pipefitting.
- Facilitated a joint venture between Fedics Site Services and Mooncloud 44 to create some 300 local jobs, producing more than 20 000 meals a day.
- Protected the 5 200 Marapong workers through a joint venture with Born to Protect and Blue Magnolia that employs 137 security personnel.
- The Medupi contractors have spent R1.3billion on procurement from Lephalale suppliers since the commencement of the project.
At the end of December 2014, as a direct result of Eskom business in the new build projects, 24 251 jobs were created by suppliers in Medupi, Kusile, Ingula and the Power Deliver Project (PDP).
Eskom should be commended for holding contractors accountable to ensure that they contribute jointly to benefit the community.
Some of the initiatives included:
- Hitachi invested R1.2million in building Segwati crèche
- Eskom invested R8.6million in a pediatric mobile unit for primary school health care.
- Eskom invested R3.5million in the refurbishment and upgrading of the Seleka Community Hall and Traditional Offices.
- Eskom invested over R620 000 in refurbishing Itereleng Creche in Marapong.
- After the Olifantsdrift Primary School was damaged by storms, Eskom refurbished the School.
- 62,6% construction workers on site are youth.
- Hitachi has extended the Lephalale Further Education and Training College by investing a sum of R24 million in building the Tlhahlong Training Centre, where the training of the 700 artisans is undertaken as part of its ASGISA obligation. About 90% of the candidates at this facility come from within Limpopo province. To date, a total of 755 artisans have completed their training. 14 are currently in training and 450 are employed at the project.
- Since 2011, a total of 74 emerging contractors and suppliers have successfully completed the Eskom Contractor Academy, a registered programme offered in partnership with the University of Limpopo. Eskom has spent about R6.1million on the training of these business owners, who can now apply their newly acquired skills to benefit their business and the community. Nine contractors and suppliers are currently in training.
- A total of 28 other local business owners and agricultural co-operatives were trained, mentored, and coached by Ikusasa.
- On an annual basis, approximately 1 500 learners from 23 local high schools visit Medupi as part of the Medupi Schools Outreach Programme. The project occasionally hosts higher education institutions requiring exposure to megaprojects such as Medupi, specifically for final-year engineering and environmental studies. To date, approximately 7 048 learners and students have been given an opportunity to visit the project.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MEDUPI
- The project uses enough concrete to build four Greenpoint Stadiums. In excess of 1.2 million cubic metres (m3) of concrete had been placed. Medupi also has the largest concrete batching facility in South Africa and most probably in the southern hemisphere.
- Parts and cement weighing the same as seven supertankers needed to be transported overland; the total distance to transport materials to site is equivalent to 20 times around the world.
- Job creation peaked at over 18 000 direct construction and 2 000 supporting services jobs during construction.
- The town of Lephalale’s gross domestic product has increased by about 95% per year as a result of the construction activities.
- The power station will directly grow South Africa’s GDP by approximately 0.35% per year.
- About 50% of the project cost is committed and spent in South Africa.
- 22 340 meals are prepared and served daily, resulting in approximately six million meals served to the workforce on an annual basis.
Medupi, for generations to come will be a living monument of the commitment, ability and tenacity of the ANC’s objective of creating a better life for all.
Comrade Lynne Brown is a member of the ANC NEC and Minister of Public Enterprises