ESKOM will struggle to supply electricity this winter as it will start producing limited power from the R105bn Medupi power station only in December and all of its other major infrastructure projects are behind schedule.

The power utility was forced to introduce load-shedding in March to prevent the grid from shutting down. Further, it had to call on both household and business customers to cut down on usage.

The first unit of Medupi, will be ramped up to its full 800MW capacity during the first quarter of next year.

That would be immediately followed by the synchronisation of the first unit of the Kusile power station, Eskom’s acting CEO, Collin Matjila, said on Thursday.

Kusile’s first unit will come online in the second half of next year.

An accident at the Ingula pumped storage plant in the Drakensberg has delayed operations by a year. It will be commissioned only in the second half of next year.

The three power stations will have a combined capacity of 10,900MW when complete.

Eskom is investing about R300bn in its infrastructure build programme, dominated by these three projects. They are all behind schedule by at least three years.

“Synchronisation of a unit takes approximately three months to reach full capacity,” said Dan Marokane, head of Eskom’s capital projects division. “So we’ll get full power (from Medupi) by the first quarter next year.”

Mr Matjila said while the Kusile plant was on track overall, it was “still nowhere Eskom would like it to be”.

The power utility has repeatedly promised that it would start generating electricity from Medupi and Ingula during the second half of this year. The delays mean it will limp on with a maximum capacity of about 36,000MW through the winter, which is barely enough to meet peak demand.

Eskom has said power supply will remain tight until the new plants were ready.

“The system continues to remain tight and vulnerable this winter, meaning that any shift on the power system could result in a shortage of supply,” Mr Matjila said.

That could result in Eskom invoking its emergency protocols. These would require the largest of its industrial customers to switch off demand and scale down production. If demand still exceeded supply after those measures, Eskom would resort to load-shedding, as it did early this year.

In an update on Monday, Eskom said it had maximum available capacity of 36,051MW to meet demand. That still leaves it with about 3,000MW to meet higher demand.

Planned and unplanned outages totalled 7,400MW, equating to 17% of the company’s installed capacity.

But Eskom is getting unlikely support from the lower power demand coming from the platinum mines in North West province. About 70,000 mine workers have been on strike there for the past five months.

The power utility has said demand for power from the platinum mines has halved to about 400MW since the strike began. That will change if an agreement is reached in the wage talks and the strike ends.