South Africa Plans On Keeping Coal In Power Generation

South Africa’s plans to boost electricity generation over the next decade will be a mix of renewable energy and coal power, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said on Friday, as nationwide power cuts entered the third day.

The long-awaited Integrated Resource Plan published on Friday replaces a previous blueprint that had not been updated in almost a decade, holding back badly needed investment in new generating capacity, Reuters reports.

Mantashe said the new plan supported a diversified energy mix and could be a catalyst for economic growth.

South Africa’s power generation problems have resurfaced this week with the first power cuts in around seven months, underlining the challenge President Cyril Ramaphosa faces in reviving the country’s economy and rescuing struggling state power utility Eskom.

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Eskom cut up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) of power from the national grid on Friday and would probably cut 1,000 MW on Saturday, spokeswoman Dikatso Mothae said.

The new energy plan has provision for 1,500 MW of new coal power, 2,500 MW of hydropower, 6,000 MW from photovoltaic, 14,400 MW from wind and 3,000 MW from natural gas.

South Africa’s power generation is currently dominated by coal, which accounts for more than 80% of output and makes the country one of the top-20 emitters of carbon dioxide worldwide.

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By 2030, coal would account for 59% of electricity volumes, with 8% from hydro, 6% from photovoltaic, 18% from wind and 1% from gas and diesel, the plan showed.

The life of the Koeberg nuclear power plant will be extended, but there are no plans for a large-scale nuclear expansion of the type championed by former president Jacob Zuma, Mantashe said.

“Ours is not to be a lobby group for particular energy technology,” he told a news conference.

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Analysts said the plan did not represent the least-cost generation mix but was an effort to appease different interest groups by giving each a stake in planned new capacity.

Chris Yelland, a Johannesburg-based energy expert, said the inclusion of new coal capacity was a deliberate attempt to placate vocal coal lobbyists.

But he also said those coal plants could never materialise as international and local banks are growing increasingly reluctant to lend to coal projects because of environmental concerns.

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