Water scarcity and move away from carbon riles Medupi, Kusile

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President Jacob Zuma officially opens Unit 6 at Medupi. (Photo: GCIS)
President Jacob Zuma officially opens Unit 6 at Medupi. (Photo: GCIS)

IMAGES FROM space of the Kusile and Medupi power stations, under construction in South Africa, show rows of partially completed turbine plants, a pick-up sticks jumble of big tower cranes, and an armada of trucks.

The stunningly clear pictures of the two immense industrial sites display both an ambitious meeting of national aspiration in a water-scarce rangeland and an inordinately expensive and technically complex confrontation between two centuries.

Four years late, and billions of rands over budget, Kusile and Medupi are still due to be completed by the end of this decade at a cost estimated to be about R495bn. With generating capacity of 9 600 megawatts, the two power stations are meant to bridge the torturous economic canyon that separates a nation starving for power from one that thrives with energy surpluses. Executives of Eskom, South Africa’s electrical utility, join South Africa’s national leadership in the view that the two coal-fired power plants are the logical destiny of a nation rich in coal reserves.

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