Kusile power station

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Kusile power station is an operating power station of at least 3200-megawatts (MW) in Witbank, Mpumalanga, South Africa with multiple units, some of which are not currently operating.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Kusile power station Witbank, Mpumalanga, South Africa -25.92007, 28.924942 (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, Unit 4, Unit 5, Unit 6: -25.92007, 28.924942

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology Start year Retired year
Unit 1 operating coal - bituminous 800 supercritical 2018 2069 (planned)
Unit 2 operating coal - bituminous 800 supercritical 2020 2070 (planned)
Unit 3 operating coal - bituminous 800 supercritical 2021 2071 (planned)
Unit 4 operating coal - bituminous 800 supercritical 2022
Unit 5 construction coal - bituminous 800 supercritical 2024[1]
Unit 6 construction coal - bituminous 800 supercritical 2025[1]

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner
Unit 1 Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd (Eskom) [100.0%]
Unit 2 Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd (Eskom) [100.0%]
Unit 3 Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd (Eskom) [100.0%]
Unit 4 Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd (Eskom) [100.0%]
Unit 5 Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd (Eskom) [100.0%]
Unit 6 Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd (Eskom) [100.0%]

Project-level coal details

  • Coal source(s): New Largo mine


  • Source of financing: 2018 - US$2.5 billion in debt from the China Development Bank[2], previously at least 22 banks, export credit agencies, and investment funds (see above)[3]


The power station is sponsored by state electricity utility Eskom, and was originally proposed as six 900 megawatt coal-fired generating units for a total generating capacity of 5,400 megawatts.[4]

An environmental impact assessment program was conducted in March 2006 and received the Record of Decision (ROD) in June 2007. The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism however revised the ROD and issued environmental authorization for the project in March 2008. The construction of the power plant began in August 2008,[5] and was planned to have a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts (6 x 800 MW).[6]

Both Kusile and Eskom's Medupi power station are long-delayed from the initially planned April 2011 commissioning date.[7]

The first generating unit was scheduled to enter the South African electrical grid by the second half of 2015, with the subsequent five units being commissioned at eight- and then 12-month intervals thereafter. The last unit was expected to be in commercial operation by 2019.[8]

In 2015, it was reported that Unit 1 would come online in 2016,[9] and the last unit by 2021.[10] In March 2015, Eskom appointed ABB South Africa to replace Alstom to execute the control and instrumentation (C&I) for the Kusile power station, but said it would not delay construction.[11]

As of May 2016, Eskom's website stated unit 1 of Kusile was planned for operation by end-2017.[12] In July 2016, it was reported that unit 1 was planned for commercial operation in July 2018, and unit 6 by September 2022.[13]

In December 2016, Unit 1 was synchronized with the grid,[14] and commercial operations began on August 30, 2017.[15] As of 2017, Unit 1 is operating with 800 MW capacity.[16]

In April 2018, plant developer ABB said unit 2 was synchronized.[17]

In February 2019, Eskom reported R8 billion would be needed to fix design defects at Medupi and Kusile.[18] A routine inspection found some defects in various areas of the plant, including Unit 1, the only unit in operation. The planned date for return-to-service of Unit 1 was August 2019.[19]

On March 16, 2019, Unit 3 was synchronised to the national grid.[20]

As of July 2019, units 2 and 3 – although synchronised to the grid – were still undergoing testing and commissioning and not yet in commercial service. Unit 2 experienced a failure related to the induced draft (ID) fans in the first week of July 2019 and minor repairs had to be done. Unit 6 at Kusile was being be stripped for certain replacement parts needed for Units 1, 2 and 3.[19]

In October 2020, Unit 2 achieved commercial operation.[21]

According to Eskom's 2020 Annual Report, the full plant is planned for operation in 2024.[22]

In May 2021, South African Deputy-President, David Mabuza, who is also serving as Chairperson of the Political Task Team on Eskom, visited the plant to evaluate the progress being made. The Political Task Team noted the plant’s current 2,400 MW output. Mabuza summarized that "Kusile has now completed 3 units and they are now in a process of taking the forth unit to commercial operation by mid next year." Construction activities are winding down, with currently 5,000 construction workers on site (at the peak of building activities, there were more than 15,000). The full plant was expected to be completed by 2023.[23]

In June 2021, Mabuza said "The Eskom board and management are committed to completing Kusile power station within the revised, board-approved completion date in the 2024/25 financial year, and within the project budget of R161.4 billion, excluding interest during construction.” Delays at Unit 4 to Unit 6 were reportedly due to contractor, financial, commercial, and contractual issues. Unit 4 was expected to be operational by January 2023, followed by Unit 5 in December 2023, and Unit 6 in May 2024.[24] However, in other articles, Eskom stated " we expect the whole project to be completed by the end of 2023, which at that point, will give us the full 4,800 megawatts.”[25] In November 2021, Kusile was only producing a quarter of the electricity its three operational units were supposed to be due to a series of breakdowns and faults.[26]

In June 2022, an official media report from Eskom announced that Unit 4 had passed all testing and optimization, and it had officially connected to the national grid. They also reported that units 5 and 6 were progressing on schedule.[27] Should the final two units come online as planned, the station will be fourth largest coal plant in the world.[28]

South Africans lost a record 205 days of electricity in 2022.[29] Beyond the aging infrastructure and significant corruption pressuring the grid, breakdowns at the Kusile power station and Medupi power station alone contributed a shortfall of nearly 3 MW, which was equivalent to three stages of loadshedding.[30]

According to reporting from September 2023, Unit 5 was now expected to go into commercial operation in April 2024, and Unit 6 was expected to go into operation in February 2025.[31]

In December 2023, Unit 5 was synchronized with the national grid. Eskom expected the unit to "supply electricity intermittently during the testing and optimisation phase over the next six months before being transferred into commercial operation."[32]

Accidents and incidents

In October 2022, an air heater of the in-construction Unit 5 caught fire. Commissioning of the unit would likely be delayed from 2023 to 2024. Eskom had previously touted that the new 800 MW unit would help to mitigate South Africa's ongoing load shedding problem. The company's chief operating officer stated that Unit 6 remained on target to come online in mid-2024.[33]

In November 2022, just two weeks after the air heater fire, a build-up of a cement-like deposit caused a flue gas duct of Unit 1 to collapse. Eskom stated that the unit may remain offline for months, further worsening South Africa's grid instability.[34]

In February 2023, Eskom requested approval from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs to permit the units impacted by the flue gas duct collapse to bypass flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD). Because of the loadshedding crisis impacting South Africa's grid, Eskom hoped to return the units to service without waiting an additional year for the duct to be rebuilt.[35] In March 2023, Eskom was approved to apply for the exception and bypass public comment.[36] The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air estimated that the exemption could cause about 1,400 deaths in three years in a high utilization scenario.[37]

In May 2023, the Minister of Electricity visited the power station to inspect the progress of repairs to the collapsed flue gas duct. Units 1-3 had been offline since the incident, and initial repairs were reportedly "on track" and expected to be completed by December 2023.[38] Eskom had spent 250 million rand (US$13 million) to date on constructing temporary flue gas ducts for the three units at the plant.[39]

In June 2023, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) granted Eskom an exemption from sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission limits at the power station until the end of March 2025. Kusile would be allowed to operate without flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) while repairs to ducts in the permanent chimneys were being completed through December 2024.[40] Life After Coal, a joint campaign by groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, and the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), was reportedly considering appealing against the decision because the health impact assessment and proposed mitigation measures required by the DFFE were inadequate.[41]

In September 2023, Eskom announced that Unit 3 had returned to service after a year offline due to the flue gas duct collapse.[42] Unit 1 returned to service in October 2023. All four operating units were expected to be back in service by the end of 2023.[43]

Coal Supply

In the minutes of a 2009 stakeholder briefing, Eskom stated that they "will obtain most of the coal required for Kusile Power Station from Anglo Coal's New Largo operations, south east of the Kusile Power Station."[44]

According to a 2011 Sierra Club report, Eskom’s own consultants estimate that 35 new coal mines will be required to support the Medupi and Kusile plants.[45]

Anglo Coal's subsidiary, Anglo Inyosi Coal, will also supply about 17 million tons of coal to the power station for a period of 47 years.[46]

Early Project Timeline

  • Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism issued a positive Record of Decision on 5 June 2007.[47]
  • February 2008: Hitachi Power Africa has been awarded the boiler contract worth R18.5 billion and Alstom S&E has been awarded the turbine island works contract valued at R13 billion."[48]
  • April 14, 2011: Black & Veatch Corp. won preliminary approval for US$805.6 million in financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank for the Kusile plant.[49][50]
  • May 31, 2011: Eskom announced that the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) had given its initial approval for a US$805 million (R5.78 billion) loan to help Eskom build the plant.[51]

Financial institution support

According to BankTrack in 2011, the following institutions are involved in supporting the Kusile Power Station:[52]

Multilateral development banks

  • African Development Bank - $500 million corporate loan, November 2008


  • Bank of America - advisory service, October 2010
  • Bank of Tokyo Misubishi UFJ - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009
  • Barclays - advisory service, October 2010
  • BNP Pribas - corporate loan as part of 1,185 million euro syndicated loan
  • China Development Bank - US$2.5 billion, July 2018[53]
  • Credit Agricole - corporate loan as part of 1,185 million euro syndicated loan
  • Credit Mutuel-CIC - corporate loan as part of 1,185 million euro syndicated loan
  • Credit Suisse Group - helping with the sale of a stake
  • Deutsche Bank - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009
  • FirstRand Bank Ltd - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009
  • HSBC Group - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009
  • JPMorgan Chase - advisory services
  • KfW IPEX-Bank - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009
  • Natixis - corporate loan as part of 1,185 million euro syndicated loan
  • Nedbank Group - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009
  • Rand Merchand Bank - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009
  • Societe Generale - corporate loan as part of 1,185 million euro syndicated loan
  • Standard Bank - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009

Export Credit Agencies

  • COFACE - corporate loan as part of 1,185 million euro syndicated loan
  • Euler Hermes Kreditversicherungs-AG (Hermes) - 705 million euro syndicated loan, December 2009
  • Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) - $805 million, April 2011

Investment Funds

  • Public Investment Corporation (PIC) - R 9 billion (US $1.2), May 2010

U.S. Export-Import Bank financing

As of October 2010, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is currently preparing for decisions regarding Ex-Im Bank financing of what would be two of the world's largest coal-fired power plants, Kusile and Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (proposed in India). August 11, 2010, marked the comment deadline for the Environmental Impact Assessment on the Kusile project. US citizens submitted nearly 7,500 public comments in opposition to the US government's contribution to the project and its environmental impacts, including annually emitting more than 150% of the annual carbon dioxide emissions from projects supported by the Ex-Im Bank in 2009. In 2004, the Ex-Im Bank adopted "global environmental standards," and in 2009 the bank adopted a carbon policy. Yet according to a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, more than 95% of Ex-Im's energy portfolio is based on fossil fuels, and in 2009 Ex-Im Bank financing for renewable energy was less than .5% of the agency's total financing. The US Ex-Im Bank Board is expected to take up a due diligence vote on Kusile by the end of 2010.[54]

Eskom Plant Gets Approval

On April, 14, 2011 Black & Veatch Corp. won preliminary approval for $805.6 million in financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank for the Kusile plant in South Africa's Mpumalanga Province, which was to include six units and have a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts.[49][50]

On May 31, 2011, Eskom announced that the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) had given its initial approval for an $805 million (R5.78 billion) loan to help Eskom build the plant. The final vote on the Ex-Im Bank’s loan for Kusile was expected after a mandatory Congressional notification period.

The South African government indicated that it was not in a position to contribute any further funds to its Kusile and Medupi Power Station projects. In the case of Medupi, additional financing was expected to come from the World Bank.

The plant was expected to emit an estimated 36.8 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year once it is completed. It was forecast to increase South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions – already the biggest in Africa – by nearly 10%. In addition, it was projected to consume more than a billion gallons of water annually and release various health-threatening pollutants into the air. South Africa has extensive coal reserves and is generating more than 90% of its electricity supply through it.[55]

2018 China Development Bank funding

In July 2018, Eskom signed a US$2.5 billion loan agreement with the China Development Bank for the Kusile plant, helping Eskom meet its goal to secure 62% of the financial year 2018/19 funding requirement.[2][3]

According to IJ Global, in the 11 years since the project was announced, it had attracted no fewer than 22 banks, export credit agencies, and investment funds all of which offered different services. The loan from the China Development Bank came at an opportune time as many banks and insurers in Europe, the US, and Japan have announced changes to their energy investment policies to exclude new coal-fired power investment.[3]

Greenpeace report

The 2011 report[56] by Greenpeace Africa and the University of Pretoria’s Business Enterprises unit calculated the full costs of the Kusile plant, from climate change to water use, and the impact on health and the environment. It was estimated that the damage caused by Kusile will cost South Africa between R31.2 billion and R60.6 billion a year, and that just 30% of Kusile’s externality cost would be able to generate five times the coal station’s proposed power with renewable energy. Roughly 70% of the total cost was water-related. Instead of coal, Greenpeace pushes for renewable energy sources.[57]

Meridian Economics report

A November 2017 report by Meridian Economics recommended South Africa curtail its coal plant construction program in favor of more flexible renewable power sources. The report recommended the early retirement of three power plants (Grootvlei, Hendrina, and Komati) and the cancellation of Kusile power station Units 5 and 6. Such moves would result in financial savings in the region of R15 billion to R17 billion (US$1.14 billion to US$1.30 billion). The study warned that failing to alter the company's current construction program could push Eskom or the state into default on its financial obligations.[58]


The project has faced opposition and controversy at every step of the way. In November 2011, Greenpeace activists chained themselves to a gate and some climbed a crane to protest the Kusile power station and South Africa's dependence on coal, a few weeks before the country was set to host a global conference on climate change. Authorities arrested nine people, who were ordered to return to court November 21 on charges of trespassing and malicious damage to property.[59]

In February 2014, 1,400 employees were reported absent from the construction of the Kusile power plant. This was during a time of allegations of corruption around the power plant.[60]

On April 5, 2017, a protest by Kusile power station was reported, stating that community members were not happy with procurement processes and urging for the closure of the power station.[61]

In May 2018, 27 people were reportedly arrested and 4 vehicles were damaged in a violent protest near Kusile power station in Mpumalanga. Eskom stated that they had to evacuate construction workers at the plant for safety. Police were called to restore order. The protestors included disappointed workers including subcontractors of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Africa.[62]

By May 2019, around 400-500 workers at the Kusile power station were fired as a result of continuous protests over unpaid wages for constructing the plants. Multiple security guard strikes made it impossible for the site to operate optimally.[63]

Corruption Allegations

In 2017, South African newspapers reported a kickback scandal following allegations regarding illicit payments by a sub-contractor for the Kusile project. In addition to handing the matter to the police, the company's Assurance and Forencsic Division began an internal investigation.[64]

In December 2017, France Hlakudi, the former manager of contracts for Eskom, rejected allegations that he took bribes from Tubular Construction Projects, which was a contractor on the construction of the Kusile plant. In a statement from his attorney, Hlakudi confirmed Tubular paid his company, Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation, almost 20 million rand (US$1.5 million) for projects undertaken as part of the construction company’s corporate social investment program, including translation work.[65]

In November 2019, the Daily Maverick detailed an alleged slush fund corruption scandal involving Eskom executives and at least four contractors. The scandal involved contracts worth a combined R10 billion resulting in an estimated R75 million being lost due to irregular activities. At the time of the publication, the construction of Kusile was five years past its original completion date and an estimated R80 billion (US$5.4 billion) over budget.[66]

In May 2021, the Sunday Times summarized "the free-for-all that saw costs for Eskom's half-completed and behind-schedule Kusile power station spiral to R161.4bn," including millions of rands in unnecessary contracts, a spending spree on furniture, and even a donation to a foundation chaired by former president Jacob Zuma's fiancé.[67] Some top Eskom executives are now facing fraud and corruption charges.[68]

In October 2022, the former Eskom acting chief executive Matshela Koko, along with his wife and step-daughter, were arrested on corruption charges. The National Prosecution Authority alleged that Koko's step-daughter made 20 million rand (US$1.1 million) after becoming a shareholder in the company contracted to install instrumentation systems at the Kusile power station. They reject the allegations, and Koko denies that he knew of his step-daughter's shareholding.[69]

In December 2022, ABB, the Swedish-Swiss engineering company associated with US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations around the Kusile power station, agreed to pay a US$315 million fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice. Two affiliates of ABB pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy each.[70]

In January 2023, internal emails revealed that after investing just 1.2 million rand ($69,000 USD), the African National Congress’s investment arm known as Chancellor House received 97 million rand ($5.5 million USD) in "success fees" in return. In 2015, the Chancellor House subsidiary involved in the Kusile power station project had faced charges by the US Securities and Exchange Commission under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.[71]

In February 2023, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted an order to freeze assets, including properties and luxury vehicles, allegedly purchased using profits from a corrupt tender at the Kusile power station.[72]

Problems with New Largo mine

A November 2017 report by Meridian Economics described the following problems with the New Largo mine:[58]

Kusile was originally designed to burn coal from the co-located Anglo American New Largo resource. Despite Anglo initiating environmental and regulatory permitting processes as far back as 2007, the mine remains undeveloped. Progress was hindered by Eskom and Anglo’s inability to find mutually agreeable terms for the coal supply agreement. Key sticking points related to the capital sharing arrangements, returns to be earned by the shareholders, and Black Economic Empowerment ownership requirements. In the interim, Eskom signed medium-term contracts for the station's initial years. Despite the substantial additional costs and externalities of importing such coal to Kusile from other mines, Eskom has only recently released a tender for long-term coal supply at the station, which is expected to include a response from New Largo. However, it is clear from interviews that due to financing challenges, a smaller version of the mine will be designed and will supply around half of Kusile's total demand (15 Mtpa at full load). This still leaves a substantial residual volume of coal to be imported to Kusile over its lifetime following the construction of New Largo. Given that Kusile was designed to be supplied by a large tied mine, the coal yard infrastructure was not designed to facilitate large-scale coal imports and will face challenges in congestion, stockpiling and blending, if 50% of its supply is imported. Procurement of many smaller, cheaper contracts will exacerbate this problem due to the greater need for coal blending and handling. These constraints will therefore require further capital investment should large imports be required.

Retirement plans

In April 2020, Eskom listed one unit's retirement as 2069.[73] (A 50-year Life Decommissioning estimate, using South Africa's 2019 Integrated Resource Plan approach, would mean unit retirements after 2068.[74])

Articles and Resources


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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.