In response to persistent power challenges, South Africa is expediting plans to introduce 3GW of gas-fired power generation, a move aimed at mitigating the energy deficit adversely affecting the nation's economy.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa shared insights into the government's strategy during a press briefing on Sunday, November 5.
Even as Africa's most developed economy, the country still grapples with daily power cuts, primarily attributed to breakdowns at Eskom's ageing coal-fired plants. Officials estimate a need for up to 6GW of new generating capacity to eliminate rolling blackouts, prompting a reassessment of the energy landscape.
Minister Ramokgopa outlined key components of the government's acceleration plan, which includes a 2GW mobile facility and a 1GW plant near Coega in the Eastern Cape. These projects are currently in the procurement stage, reflecting the government's commitment to swift action.
Ramokgopa emphasised the prioritisation of 3,000MW of gas, citing its lower emissions compared to coal. Recognising the global shift towards cleaner energy sources, the minister highlighted the importance of expediting gas projects to address environmental concerns.
Although gas-fired power stations produce lower emissions compared to coal, aligning with environmental sustainability goals, civil society and environmental lobby groups are pushing for investment in renewables instead of additional fossil fuel generation. Accelerating gas projects may slow down the transition to renewable energy sources, hindering progress toward a fully sustainable energy landscape.
Despite lower emissions, gas remains a fossil fuel, contributing to concerns about long-term sustainability and dependence on non-renewable resources. While cleaner than coal, gas extraction and transport can still have environmental impacts, including methane leakage.
Initial government plans for a 3GW gas-fired power plant in Richards Bay faced opposition from environmental groups advocating for a more rapid transition to renewable energy. The global trend away from polluting fossil fuels has prompted calls for increased focus on cleaner alternatives.
In June, Ramokgopa announced expectations for over 5.5GW of new renewable energy projects by 2026. Concurrently, Eskom is exploring the extension of its 40-year-old 1.94GW Koeberg nuclear plant, aiming to prolong its operational life by 20 years beyond the scheduled shutdown in the coming year.
As South Africa intensifies efforts to address its energy challenges, the emphasis on gas-fired power projects underscores the evolving dynamics in the nation's energy strategy. The move towards cleaner alternatives reflects a commitment to balancing energy needs with environmental considerations.