South African officials are hoping that the gradual recovery of one of the country’s biggest coal-fired power stations will reduce crippling power blackouts.
At least two units at the Kusile power station have been restored in the last three weeks, adding 1,600 megawatts to the national grid and reducing the rolling power blackouts, which can last up to 12 hours a day.
The units have been out of service since they broke down in October last year, contributing significantly to the blackouts, known in South Africa as loadshedding.
The two units were restored nearly two months ahead of schedule and two more are expected to be brought back online before the end of the year, officials said.
While the full recovery of the power station is unlikely to end all power blackouts, it is seen as a significant step toward resolving the power crisis that has severely affected households and the country’s economy.
The Kusile power station has six generating units capable of producing 800 megawatts each, making it one of the biggest coal-fired power stations in the world with a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts of electricity.
“Both units are adding 1,600 megawatts back into the grid, thereby improving the available generation capacity. This signifies that Eskom is on the right path to reducing and ultimately ending loadshedding,” Daphne Mokwena, spokesperson for power utility Eskom, said Tuesday.
The government remains under pressure to bring Kusile and another power station, Medupi, up to full operation.
Construction delays, cost overruns and allegations of corruption have besieged both power stations since their construction began in 2007.
South Africa has committed to a transition from a heavy reliance on coal for electricity generation to cleaner sources including solar, wind and battery storage. The transition has secured funding pledges of up to $8.5 billion from France, the U.K, Germany, the U.S. and the European Union.
However, the country’s electricity crisis has led the government to consider prolonging the lifespan of its aging power stations.
The country has also launched a program to secure additional electricity from neighboring countries.