US lends S.Africa $805.6 mn for power plant

30th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United States Export-Import Bank has green-lighted an $805.6-million loan to South African power company Eskom to fund construction of a coal-fired power plant, the state utility said Monday.

Eskom is currently building two new coal plants to ease an electricity crunch in Africa's largest economy, whose overloaded grid was hit by rolling blackouts in 2008.

The loan from the US Ex-Im Bank will go toward the 142-billion-rand ($20.5-billion, 14.4-billion-euro) Kusile power station in the northern province of Limpopo, Eskom said.

"Export credit agency finance is one of the sources Eskom is tapping as part of its 300-billion-rand funding plan for the new build programme. More than three-quarters of that funding has now been secured," Eskom financial director Paul O'Flaherty said in a statement.

South Africa has taken heat from environmentalists over its heavy dependence on coal, currently about 90 percent of the electricity mix.

The government says it wants to cut coal to about 64 percent of power supply over the next 20 years.

But it has charged ahead with an ambitious build programme for coal-fired plants.

Eskom broke ground in 2007 on Kusile, a 4,800-megawatt facility that will be one of the largest coal-fired plants in the world.

It is also at work on the 125-billion-rand, 4,788-megawatt Medupi coal-fired power station nearby.

The World Bank came under fire from environmentalists in April last year for lending $3.75 billion for the Medupi project.

© 2011 AFP

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