The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) has approved plans by the state-owned electricity utility Eskom to procure 344.5 megawatts (MW) of new solar power generation capacity and battery storage.
The approval will allow the state power utility to go ahead with plans to repurpose some of its old coal power stations to renewable energy power plants, as part of its Just Energy Transition (JET) strategy.
Eskom is planning to issue tenders for 75 MW of solar PV at its Lethabo Power Station in the Free State province, a 19.5 MW of solar PV plant at its Sere Wind Farm in the Western Cape, and a 250 MW of solar-plus-storage plant at Komati power station in Mpumalanga.
The Komati coal power station was decommissioned last year after reaching the end of its design life, having been in operation for over 60 years. Eskom received $497 million from the World Bank last year for the Komati power station repowering project.
According to Eskom, the repowering of Komati power station with a 250 MW solar-plus-storage will be done through a comprehensive transition plan, elaborated jointly with inputs from staff and unions. Affected workers will undergo re-skilling, and upskilling for deployment to the renewable energy plants.
The decommissioning of the Komati coal-fired plant will result in reduced carbon emissions and improvement of ambient air quality in the vicinity of the plant.
Treasury’s debt relief conditions on new Eskom procurement
Eskom is also planning to pursue a public private partnership model on the implementation of the 75MW solar project at Lethabo, and 19.5MW PV project at Sere wind farm as the utility’s R254 billion debt relief conditions by National Treasury restricts it from doing new generation projects from its balance sheet, other than transmission and distribution network expansion projects. The Komati project was approved before National Treasury’s debt relief conditions were in place.
South Africa’s power sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in South Africa, accounting for 41 percent of its CO2 emissions. This is due mainly to Eskom’s fleet composition. Its 15 coal-fired power plants, with an average age of 41 years, provide 38.7 GW of the country’s 52.5 GW installed capacity.
The addition of clean energy by Eskom in its portfolio is expected to enhance energy security in South Africa, and reduce Eskom’s overall carbon emissions.