Johannesburg - Unit six at the Medupi power station in Lephalale, Limpopo, is expected to be the first unit to go live early next year, acting Eskom CEO Collins Matjila said on Thursday.
"Medupi has been going on for a number years and... it has been a challenge for Eskom. We have learnt very valuable lessons in the construction and management of mega projects like Medupi," he told reporters in Johannesburg.
"We are now at a point where we can confidently say that we will meet the synchronisation date by the end of this year, having dealt with those two critical issues of the boiler welds and the control instrumentation."
The project has been beset by delays due to contractor bungling and labour disputes, with the power utility stating in October that South Africa could expect electricity from the coal-fired power station in 2014.
Matjila said the unit coming on line, which would add 800 megawatts (MW) to the power utility's capacity, would be a boon for the constrained power system.
"This will provide mass relief to the shortage of capacity we are experiencing throughout the year, but particularly the shortage that we are experiencing in the winter period," he said.
Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, speaking before Matjila, said it was pleasing that new projects like Medupi were nearing completion.
"[It] will not only alleviate the pressure on the power system, but will also support government's economic programmes and developmental objectives," she said.
"All required qualification documentation and... boiler welds have been quantified and repaired. The successful hydrostatic testing of the Medupi unit six boilers... that caused the delays, have now been resolved."
Matjila said electricity demand in June and July was expected to be over 34 000 MW, with Eskom projecting peak demand of about 35 500 MW around July 21.
"We are also looking at additional capacity, that we will be obtaining from various sources, including the IPPs (independent power producers). We have already secured a number of contracts with IPPs," he said.
"We have also seen a reduced dependency on South Africa from our neighbouring countries, which is a positive sign."
Eskom generated 1500 MW of capacity in Mozambique, and sold 1200 MW back to the country.
Swaziland was supplied with 100 MW, while 150 MW was supplied to Botswana.
Last year, Eskom used significant amounts of open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) to produce power, which had resulted in increased spending on diesel.
"For us, the usage of OCGTs becomes a last resort before implementing emergency protocols, that then call for our major industrial customers to reduce load," said Matjila.
"We will have periods during winter where demand peaks, to the extent that it puts us closer to where we have to increase our usage of OCGTs when we have exhausted all our available levers."
Other than that, Eskom was confident it had taken all necessary steps to ensure the increased winter demand was met without resorting to expensive fuel such as diesel.
The company had spent just above R1bn in the first two months of the financial year, which was R400m less compared to April and May last year.