In 2013 a group of companies led by GDF Suez awarded a contract to Ansaldo Energia and FATA for turnkey construction of two open-cycle power plants for electricity generation in South Africa, with a total value of about 440 million euro.
This project, known as the Peakers Project, began in 2010 on the initiative of the South African government's Energy Department with the goal of boosting the South African electricity grid's ability to respond to peak loads, an increasingly pressing need in view of the frequent black-outs of recent years in the supply of electricity to the public and local industry, seen as an obstacle hindering the country's economic development. The project represented South Africa's first IPP (Independent Power Producer) scheme. In addition to the scheme's inherent complexity, support was required in the form of adaptation of local legislation and regulations to respond to changed conditions on the electricity market.
The green light for the project came in June 2013 with final government approval and the consequent signature of Power Purchase Agreements between Eskom, the South African electricity company which has until now had a monopoly on the production and transmission of electricity, and the two project companies set up by GDF Suez, with the participation of Mitsui of Japan and a number of local partners. These steps allowed loans to be obtained from South African banks and construction of two plants to begin. The particular technical features of the two plants, which are open cycle power plants with gas turbines and generators made by Ansaldo Energia, is use of liquid fuel only during peak operation, with injection of demineralised water to limit atmospheric emissions.
September 2015 saw the completion of the Dedisa power plant in the Port Elizabeth area, producing 335 MW of electricity, while the Avon plant, near Durban, began operation in the summer of 2016, with a power of 670 MW. Ansaldo Energia, as leader of the consortium together with FATA, supplied six model AE94.2 gas turbines with generators and auxiliary systems, and performed the civil works and commissioning of the plants, worth a total of about 280 million euro. The contract also involved construction of substations and an interface with the electricity grid, storage and distribution of fuel, and water treatment.
Ansaldo Energia was also awarded a fifteen-year contract for maintenance of the gas turbines. As the government plans to introduce use of natural gas, both plants are ready for future conversion to "combined cycle" gas-fuelled plants.
During the years in which construction of the two plants was underway, special attention was paid to the environment and sustainability, as well as impact on the local population. Employment was a priority for Ansaldo Energia, which implemented cultural and professional development programmes for the local population employed on the construction site. Ansaldo Energia opened a local branch in 2014, still operative today, to optimise relations with the customer, the South African authorities, and the local subcontractors and sub-suppliers.