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Solar, wind find favor in South Africa’s new energy blueprint

Picture: Reuters

Picture: Reuters

Published Oct 18, 2019


JOHANNESBURG - In South Africa, solar and wind are in, and coal is gradually on the way out.

That’s the key takeaway from the latest Integrated Resource Plan, which maps out the energy mix for the next decade. It envisions the nation’s electricity production capacity rising significantly by 2030, with the bulk of the increase coming from renewable sources.

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A switch to more green energy comes as South Africa faces pressure to meet emissions-reduction targets. State power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. produces about 95% of the nation’s power, the bulk of it from coal-fired power plants -- many of which are approaching retirement date and don’t comply with environmental standards.

A first version of the resource plan was adopted in 2011. While the government said it would be regularly updated and published several drafts, they were never approved. The latest iteration of the blueprint was released by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe in the capital, Pretoria, on Friday.

It envisions an additional 14,400 megawatts of power being produced from wind, 6,000 megawatts from photovoltaic solar plants, 3,000 megawatts from gas, 2,500 megawatts from hydropower and 1,500 megawatts from coal by 2030, Mantashe said.

It also foresees the completion of a project to extend the life of Koeberg, the nation’s sole atomic plant, by 20 years to 2044. Additional nuclear capacity will be installed at a pace and scale the country can afford, while investment will be made in more efficient coal technology, Mantashe said.

Coal will continue to play a significant role in electricity generation, accounting for 59% of output, while nuclear will contribute 5%, hydropower 8%, photovoltaic solar 6%, wind 18% and gas and storage 2%.

Eskom, which has amassed 450 billion rand ($30 billion) in debt and is reliant on government bailouts to remain solvent, has instituted rotating blackouts since Wednesday after a series of breakdowns at its plants. The energy blueprint doesn’t discuss how the utility can be fixed -- that will be addressed in separate plans that the government intends releasing by the end of the month.

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