Eskom considers generator transplant between the Kusile and Medupi stations

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AS THE HAGGLING between Eskom, its insurers and the Department of Labour goes on in the background over damages to Medupi's unit 4 generator, the power utility is considering transplanting the unit 6 generator from Kusile to Medupi and then ordering a new one from France to replace the Kusile one.

The Medupi generator was damaged by an explosion in August, which led it to suspend several of its employees. Kusile is not due to be commissioned until 2023.

Sources, who did not want to be named, said yesterday the move by Eskom was feasible, but would come at a heavy cost as unit 6 had already been installed and the transplant would be a difficult one.

This as Eskom claimed the cost of repairs to Medupi as ranging between R1.5 billion and R2bn – as confirmed by chief executive Andre de Ruyter after the damage.

“The Medupi generator has to be replaced; there is no question of repairs, that is clear to Eskom. The decision to be made now is moving the unit generator from Kusile to Medupi.

“The issue is that this is about huge sums of money involved,” sources said, alluding to the fact that ordering a new generator was more costly than making repairs, which were out of the question in the Medupi case.

However, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said he was unaware of the move to switch the generators between Kusile and Medupi. “I am not aware of any such moves,” he said.

In response to progress on the Medupi damages, Eskom said this week that investigations were continuing and the outcome would assist in quantifying the extent of the damage, as well as the cost and time to repair the damaged generator.

“This is a forensic investigation that includes forensic experts from both Eskom and the insurers of the power station, and as such it will take a few months before the outcome can be known.

“Eskom has given its own rough estimate of R1.5bn to R2bn to repair the generator. This, of course, is subject to the final investigation and the professional quotes that will emanate from the forensic investigation,” Eskom's media desk said.

Energy specialist Chris Yelland said it was normal for the utility to be tightfisted about progress reports on assessments to the damages, because the question of whether there had been gross negligence on the part of Eskom arose between the utility, its insurers and the Department of Labour which was also involved in the investigations.

Organised labour, Trade Union Solidarity and the National Union of Metal Workers (Numsa) urged Eskom to be cautious about the fate of the suspended employees.

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, Numsa's spokesperson, said: “We would like to caution Eskom management not to rush to make pronouncements and claim that workers are to blame for this incident. There is still an investigation. No findings have yet been made.”

Earlier this week, after a weekend blow-out at the Kendal Power Station, Eskom said its units 2 and 3, which were shut down following the damage to unit 1 generator transformer, would be returned to service early this week.

Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

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