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After spiralling costs, Ingula is now powering the economy

Mar 09 2017 05:00

Cape Town - The Ingula pumped storage scheme, which has allegedly seen costs balloon from R8.9bn to R36bn, has pumped billions into South Africa's limping economy.

Eskom said in a statement on Wednesday that Ingula has spent R6bn towards small businesses involving black women and youth and R20m towards the upgrading of schools.

Ingula, situated between Ladysmith and Harrismith in the Little Drakensberg, is a peaking hydro power station, meaning it can supply electricity during times of peak demand. It consists of an upper and a lower dam or reservoir and a powerhouse located 116 storeys underground in two excavated underground caverns.

Ingula’s four units are located 350 metres underground in the world’s largest machine hall in mud-rock. To turn the more than 500 ton rotating mass of the generator rotor and turbine, water is released from Ingula’s upper dam, Bedford Dam, situated 460m higher and 2 kilometres away.

Water flows at high speeds down to the turbines at around 60km per hour with enough water passing through each turbine to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in six seconds. Rotating at 428 revolutions per minute, each unit will produce 333 MW, a total for the station of 1 332 MW.

GRAPHIC: How Ingula works

“Over the years, Eskom has utilised the new build projects to support government’s aspirations of improving the lives of its citizens especially at local government level," said Eskom group executive for group capital Abram Masango.  

He said at least more than 2000 of the Ingula labour force were recruited from local communities and municipalities in the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces. At peak there were more than 4000 workers on site.

"Ingula has spent R6.27bn towards black women-owned enterprises, black youth-owned enterprises and small and medium enterprises, exceeding many of the national targets set in these categories,” said Masango.

Eskom has also made public its commitment to social responsibilities through development of communities surrounding its new build sites.  

“In the past two years, Ingula has injected R20m towards the upgrading of local schools and the provision of extra classrooms, 75 mobile science laboratories, and extra tuition for 400 grade 12 learners in maths, science and accounting. Other similar social responsibility investments were made in the areas of health and small business development,” said Masango.

Eskom in partnership with CMI Joint Venture also pledged a R50m donation towards the construction of a new neonatal ward and much-needed general refurbishments at the Ladysmith Regional Hospital. This initiative is set to benefit the community of the uThukela district municipality and its major towns of Ladysmith, Estcourt and Bergville.

  The official opening of Ingula Unit 4 by President Jacob Zuma and Minister Lynne Brown in July 2016. (Supplied)

“Eskom is proud of the work that the Ingula project has achieved since inception. We are grateful to all our stakeholders, especially our host municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal and Free State and communities, for working and partnering with us to deliver the much-needed megawatts into the national grid. Together we have achieved more and triumphed despite all challenges,” Masango said.   

READ: Eskom under fire as Ingula costs said to balloon to R36bn

Although Eskom maintains the entire Ingula facility cost R26.8bn, Carte Blanche revealed that a contractor was paid billions more than they should have in bonuses, advances and flimsy compensation events, even as the contractors skimped on safety.

“All payments made to contractors were done in accordance with the approved contract and in line with Eskom’s procurement policies and procedures,” Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 following the broadcasting of the investigative programme.

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