Colenso power station

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Colenso power station is a cancelled power station in Colenso, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Colenso power station Colenso, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa -28.730833, 29.826667 (exact)

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

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Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 3: -28.730833, 29.826667

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology Start year Retired year
Unit 1 cancelled coal - anthracite 350 unknown
Unit 2 cancelled coal - anthracite 350 unknown
Unit 3 cancelled coal - anthracite 350 unknown

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner
Unit 1 Colenso Power, Shandong Electric Power Construction Corp
Unit 2 Colenso Power, Shandong Electric Power Construction Corp
Unit 3 Colenso Power, Shandong Electric Power Construction Corp

Project-level coal details

  • Coal source(s): KwaZulu-Natal


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 was 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 was 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 planned 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 cast doubt on the future of the Colenso power station.[11]

In 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 would be built by Chinese engineering and construction company SEPCO Electric Power Construction Corporation. The company said South African commercial banks, development finance institutions and Chinese financial institutions would 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. According to the coalition, 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. This process would require public participation. The group also claimed Colenso Power made no indication that it intended 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 contained plans for an additional 1,000 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 were listed.[14]

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


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 defended the involvement of Chancellor House, the ANC was being called upon to avoid any conflict of interest by divesting from the company.[15]


The NGO groundWork noted 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 South African Department of Environmental Affairs to suspend the environmental authorization of the proposed 1,200 MW Thabametsi, 600 MW KiPower, and 1,050 MW Colenso power stations, saying the EIAs for the projects were vague and flawed. All three plants would be located in drought disaster areas, and the Highveld and Waterberg, in which Thabametsi and KiPower were set to be built, have been declared air quality priority areas under the Air Quality Act.[7]

Articles and Resources


  1. "South African Railways Power Plant". Electric Railway Journal. 60 (24): 914. December 9, 1922. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Natal Central Undertaking" (PDF). Eskom Heritage. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  3. "Ingagane Power Station". Eskom Heritage. Retrieved November 10, 2008.
  4. Steyn, Grové (March 15, 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, September 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, March 11, 2016
  8. "New coal power: Fired up to bid," Financial Mail, April 14, 2016
  9. "Thabametsi and Khanyisa take first in SA coal baseload IPP," ESI Africa, October 11, 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, May 2, 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, August 28, 2018
  15. "DA‚ ANC in battle over Colenso power station," RDM News Wire, September 11, 2015
  16. "Comments and further questions on Colenso," Groundwork, May 10, 2015

Additional data

To access additional data, including an interactive map of coal-fired power stations, a downloadable dataset, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.