South Africa using coal to counter its energy crisis

South Africa, which is going through an energy crisis, is weighing the possibility of extending the operational lives of two of its largest coal-fueled power plants to boost energy security, sources with knowledge of the plans told Bloomberg.

The plants Kendal and Lethabo, which account for around a fifth of the power capacity of state-owned utility Eskom, could see their lives extended, according to Bloomberg’s sources.

However, extensions of the lives of coal power plants could be a challenge to both the financially troubled Eskom and South Africa’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At present, the Kendal and Lethabo power plants are expected to be decommissioned after 2035.

The government is still assessing whether it should allow extensions of the plants’ operations, weighing energy security against pledges to cut emissions.

Coal is by far the primary energy source for South Africa, accounting for around 80% of the country’s energy mix.

The country is also the world’s fifth-largest coal exporter.

But South Africa is going through a significant energy crisis with daily rolling power cuts that is crippling the economy, as state firm Eskom has failed to boost generation capacity to keep pace with growing demand in recent years.

The South African government has recently started to push for more renewable power generation.

Last month, South Africa issued the first request inviting proposals for renewable energy procurement for 3,740 megawatts (MW) in the biggest such program in Africa.

“The release of this Phase One RFP comes at an opportune moment, with government remaining steadfast in eradicating the electricity and water supply challenges, and the rampant landfill shortages our country continues to face,” South Africa’s Public Works Minister Sihle Zikalala said in a statement at the time as carried by Bloomberg.

Early this year, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen said that the United States supports South Africa’s transition to cleaner energy and will help mobilize financing from the private sector to assist the coal-dependent country.


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