Sunday World

Calls growing for cleaner generation of electricit­y

Biggest polluters are Eskom, Sasol

- By Kabelo Khumalo

Calls are growing for South Africa to expedite the transition from coal to renewable energy.

A report by Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), released on Friday, says policymake­rs and key stakeholde­rs face hard choices if they are going to manage the transition from coal – which is inevitable – so as to maximise the benefits and manage the risks and costs.

The report was authored by TIPS senior economist Neva Makgetla and TIPS economist Muhammed Patel.

According to the report, South Africa accounts for 3.6% of global coal production compared to 0.4% of the world’s gross domestic product and 0.8% of its population.

The report further says that Eskom accounts for about half of SA’S total emissions and Sasol for nearly 15%.

Eskom relies on ageing coal-fired power stations that have resulted in endless rounds of load-shedding.

The company says it uses more than 90-million tons of coal every year.

Makgetla and Patel argue that “it is understand­able that with coal being so deeply embedded in the South African economy as well as in state systems, an energy transition will be inherently disruptive and controvers­ial”.

Eskom has said it needs more than R100-billion to decommissi­on most of its ageing coal-fired plants by 2050 and embrace renewable energy.

There are industry fears that the Department of Mineral Resources’ integrated resource plan does not adequately address the replacemen­t of base-load coal power at a pace and scale for which SA should be planning.

Four of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations are slated for decommissi­oning in the short term: Camden, Komati, Grootvlei and Hendrina.

The coal value chain employs about 200 000 formal workers, largely in four districts of Mpumalanga .

TIPS has proposed that in the short run, critical steps to ensure a more equitable and efficient transition away from coal comprise the following:

• Freezing investment in new coal plants, including the 3.5GW coal plant currently proposed for the Musina Makhado Special Economic Zone in Limpopo that would make it virtually impossible to achieve commitment­s on reducing emissions.

• Lifting unnecessar­y regulatory limits on investment in renewable capacity and storage, including restrictio­ns on Eskom investment in cleaner energy sources

• Encouragin­g the aluminium and ferro alloy refineries and Sasol to safeguard their longer-term export prospects by developing cleaner energy sources and introducin­g electricit­y saving processes.

• Reviewing the timeline for closing down coal plants as proposed by Eskom.

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