“The difficulties arising at Medupi present a lesson for South Africa. Large bulk energy projects such as this one are, by their nature, complex and have historically demonstrated the tendency to extend beyond expected timelines and budget,” said Saliem Fakir, Living Planet Unit head at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Eskom announced on Monday that the project would not be ready on time, and further pushed back the delivery date to 2014.
While Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba expressed his displeasure at the delays, he appeared to backtrack from his earlier statement that officials would be fired over project delays.
“It was on this basis that as the shareholder representative, I had made very strong statements and held the parties accountable to the deadline. I had to put everyone under pressure to deliver. I have held a very firm view that everything must be done to comply with the project schedule of December 2013 and that all the parties, particularly the contractors, must fulfil their obligations,” Gigaba said at the Eskom post-AGM media briefing at Megawatt Park.
The WWF said that the coal fired power station was a relic even before its construction and the country should invest in moving toward efficient energy production.
“While South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) remains stuck in an old paradigm of bulkiness and capital intensity, greater effort should be made to reduce demand, avoid as far as possible the building of too many complex power stations and focus on more modular and rapidly deployable solutions such as renewables,” said Fakir.
Greenpeace has also added its voice to the call for a move away from fossil fuel power.
“It is time for the government and Eskom to rethink the entire electricity paradigm, and begin the just transition away from coal and towards renewable energy and energy efficiency. This is the only sustainable path towards ensuring electricity access for all South Africans,” said Greenpeace Africa.
Large amounts of energy is lost through the transmission of electricity over distance and Fakir said that future energy systems should make allowance for localised energy production.
“In planning future energy supply we should not only concern ourselves with utility scale – building only for the central grid – but also allow more and more citizens to join the grid and generate power for themselves.”