The Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has warned that South Africa will not transition away from coal-fired power stations in darkness.
He said the lights must be on before South Africa moves away from coal to renewable energy and this position has been explained to the international community that pumped in $8.5 billion for the Just Energy Transition programme.
Ramokgopa said during a question-and-answer session in the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday that they have had to halt plans to decommission some of the power stations because of the critical need for energy.
South Africa was in the midst of power cuts and it could not afford to remove more megawatts from the grid.
He said between 2018 and 2020 more than 2 900MW were removed from the grid as part of transitioning from coal.
There were plans to cut another 5 200MW from power stations as part of the just transition programme in the next few years.
If all these megawatts were completely removed from the power stations the country would lose eight stages of load shedding.
This was not the time to act in a manner that would damage the economy, he said.
“What we know is that between 2018 and 2020 we have decommissioned units that were giving us collectively 2 900MW. We have removed from the grid units that have collective output of three stages of load shedding. We know that in this agenda of decarbonisation between 2023 and 2027 the intention is to remove another 5 200MW.
“Essentially, between 2018 and 2020 we removed 2 900MW and between now and 2027 we will remove 5 200M. It means that between 2018 and 2027 we would have removed 8 100MW, essentially an additional eight stages of load shedding.
“The next question you must answer is when and how are you going to replace that (which) you are removing from the grid,” said Ramokgopa.
He said this was not sustainable as South Africa needed to use all its resources and power generation capacity to stave off further stages of load shedding.
The country would not end load shedding soon and it was in this regard that it would have to keep coal-fired power stations earmarked for decommissioning running for the next few years.
The renewable energy projects would take a few years before they were fully connected to the grid, said Ramokgopa.
It would be reckless and unimaginable to continue with the decommissioning at the rate and speed that was initially planned.
What they wanted to do now as well was to get renewable projects closer to the grid.