Colenso power station

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of South Africa
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Colenso power station was a 160-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The plant was decommissioned in 1985.

A new 1,050 MW coal plant has been proposed at the site.


The undated satellite photo below shows the location of the decommissioned power station in Colenso, KwaZulu-Natal, on the banks of the Tugela River.

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Building of the power station started in 1921 and the power station was opened in 1926 with a capacity of 60 MW. Initially it only provided power for the 274 km section of the Glencoe – Pietermaritzburg part of the Durban-Johannesburg railway.[1]

Sale to Eskom

The power station was sold to the Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom) in January 1927.[2] It used coal that was brought in by rail from the coalfields of North Natal and water from the Tugela River. It continued to be the provider of electrical power for the railways, which by 1937 consisted of the whole Natal section of the Durban – Johannesburg line (516 route km) and the 229 km spur to Bethlehem in the Orange Free State. Between 1944 and 1959 a series of new generators were commissioned, leading to a total of five units and increasing the power station's capacity to 160 MW.[2]


In the 1960s, changes in technology led to a change in the economics of power production. New power stations such as Ingagane[3] were built at the coal fields themselves and the use 400 kVA power lines from 1972 reduced the cost of transporting electricity. In the early 1980s Eskom initiated a major development program: in 1980 new large power stations at Kriel (3,000 MW), Hendrina (2,000 MW) and Camden (1,600 MW) had been commissioned, followed by others, giving South Africa a surplus of generating capacity. Many of the 1960s vintage power stations (including Colenso's refurbishment) became uneconomic.[4]

The original part of the power station was decommissioned in 1970 and the 1944-1959 extensions in 1985.[2]

New power station

In 2010 a concerted effort began to re-establish a new, larger, independent base load power station near the original site of the old Colenso power station, using the coal resource discovered near the town. The power station would be 1,050 MW (3 x 350 MW) and cost R18-billion. Bidding is planned for November 2015 and March 2016. The proposed power station would be fueled by a nearby anthracite mine, which would also be part of the project. The project is proposed by Colenso Power, a private company and joint venture with Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation.[5]

A draft EIR was submitted in August 2015.[6] The plant was granted environmental authorization in February 2016.[7] In April 2016 Dunrose Group said it plans to submit Colenso in the next round of calls for independent coal-fired power station projects in the country, expected to be held by the year-end.[8]

In October 2016, energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced that Thabametsi power station and Khanyisa power station were the preferred bidders for round one of the country's first Coal baseload Independent Power Producer (CIPP) programme.[9][10] Colenso was not chosen.

In a March 2017 ruling, the North Gauteng High Court confirmed that a climate-change assessment must be done prior to the authorisation of any new coal-fired power station in South Africa. According to a May 2017 assessment by the Daily Maverick, the ruling casts doubt on the future of the Colenso power station.[11]

On 1 September 2017, the Minister of Energy announced that all future IPP programs in the country were on hold until a proper review was done and the government assessed the amount of power capacity needed.[12]

In March 2018, project sponsor Colenso Power said construction on the coal mining project was planned for 2019. The plant will be built by Chinese engineering and construction company SEPCO Electric Power Construction Corporation. The company says South African commercial banks, development finance institutions and Chinese financial institutions will fund the project, pending an announcement on the second round of the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme facilitated by the DoE.[13]

According to the NGO coalition Life After Coal, despite the comments by Colenso Power in March 2018 the proposed coal plant does not have environmental authorisation, as the company must still submit outstanding documents for consideration by the Department of Environmental Affairs before a decision could be made to re-issue the environmental authorisation, which will require public participation. The group also claims Colenso Power has made no indication that it intends to conduct a climate change impact assessment for the power station, as required by the North Gauteng High Court.[12]

South Africa's draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), released in August 2018, contains plans for an additional 1000 MW of new coal-fired power on top of existing and under-construction coal plants, namely Khanyisa power station and Thabametsi power station. No other coal plants are listed.[14]

There have been no developments on the project since the March 2017 ruling, and the project appears to be shelved.


In September 2015 it was reported that Chancellor House, an investment company of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), was a minor shareholder in Colenso Power, which was bidding to supply power to the publicly-owned utility Eskom through the Colenso project. While President Jacob Zuma has defended the involvement of Chancellor House, the ANC is being called upon to avoid any conflict of interest by divesting from the company.[15]


The NGO Groundwork notes the Colenso Power project would be just 500m from the Tugela River, and would use at least a million litres of water a day from the river, mostly for ash treatment. According to Groundwork, neither the quantity of water nor issues of the impact on its quality were properly addressed in the preliminary EIA study submitted by Colenso Power. Groundwork also raised concern about the potential pollution of water resources by the mine, which would be open-cast, particularly run-off from the coal stockpiling area and from the ash storage and evaporation dam.[5][16]

In March 2016, groundwork and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg appealed to the SA Department of Environmental Affairs to suspend the environmental authorization of the proposed 1200MW Thabametsi, 600MW KiPower and 1050MW Colenso power stations, saying the EIAs for the projects are vague and flawed. All three plants will be located in drought disaster areas, and the Highveld and Waterberg, in which Thabametsi and KiPower are set to be built, have been declared air quality priority areas under the Air Quality Act.[7]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: Colenso Power, Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation
  • Parent company:
  • Location: Colenso, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Coordinates: -28.730833, 29.826667 (exact)
  • Status: Shelved
  • Gross Capacity: 1,050 MW (Units 1-3: 350 MW)
  • Type:
  • Projected in service:
  • Coal Type: Anthracite
  • Coal Source: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Source of financing:
  • Start Year:

Articles and resources


  1. "South African Railways Power Plant". Electric Railway Journal. 60 (24): 914. 9 December 1922. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Natal Central Undertaking" (PDF). Eskom Heritage. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  3. "Ingagane Power Station". Eskom Heritage. Retrieved 2008-11-10.
  4. Steyn, Grové (15 March 2006). "Investment and Uncertainty: Historical experience with power sector investment in South Africa and its implications for current challenges" (PDF). Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "ANC front bids for power station," M&G, Sep 11, 2015
  6. "Draft Impact Report," EcoPartners, August 2015
  7. 7.0 7.1 Prinesha Naidoo, "Environmental appeal launched against coal IPPs Environmentalists say renewables are a better solution," MineWeb, 11 March 2016
  8. "New coal power: Fired up to bid," Financial Mail, Apr 14, 2016
  9. "Thabametsi and Khanyisa take first in SA coal baseload IPP," ESI Africa, 11 October 2016
  10. "FACTS SHEET, Bid Window 1: Coal Procurement Programme," Department of Energy, October 2016
  11. Khanyisa: Environmentalists challenge new coal-fired power station," Daily Maverick, 2 May 2017
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Life After Coal sets record straight on inaccurate statements by Colenso Power," Centre for Environmental Rights, March 20, 2018
  13. "Colenso power project set for construction in 2019," Engineering News, March 16, 2018
  14. "Life After Coal, Greenpeace Africa slam inclusion of new coal in electricity plan," CER, 28 August 2018
  15. "DA‚ ANC in battle over Colenso power station," RDM News Wire, 11 September, 2015
  16. "Comments and further questions on Colenso," Groundwork, May 10, 2015

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External resources

External articles

Wikipedia also has an article on Colenso power station. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.