Our Burning Planet


Ramaphosa advisers say South Africa must shun coal, use minimal gas

Ramaphosa advisers say South Africa must shun coal, use minimal gas
The Kusile coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga on 5 May 2023. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | President Cyril Ramaphosa in Johannesburg on 25 May 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle) | Coal falls through a sorting grate at an open-cast coal mine in Mpumalanga on 9 September 2022. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

South Africa’s Presidential Climate Commission has advised the country, which relies on coal for most of its electricity, to forsake using the fossil fuel for future power generation and to only use a minimal amount of gas.

The commission, in a set of recommendations for how South Africa should structure its electricity system, said a review of the country’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a blueprint for its energy industry, should include 50GW to 60GW of renewable energy by 2030. Only 3GW to 5GW of gas-fired plants should be built and they should only be used at times of peak demand, it said.

“There should be no new coal and gas should be kept to the role of peaking support,” it said in the report released on Tuesday. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the commission in 2020 to advise him on how the country’s power industry should be developed as it moves to reduce its reliance on coal. South Africa is the world’s 14th-biggest emitter of climate-warming gases, a large proportion of which are generated from burning fossil fuels.

Electricity planning should be anchored on least-cost pathways.

The recommendations come while South Africa is suffering its worst power cuts to date, with rolling blackouts of more than 10 hours a day, and is opening up the electricity-generation industry to private operators.

The commission warned against investment in coal and nuclear power plants because they aren’t “least cost”. Reliance on fossil fuels in the future could reduce the competitiveness of South African export industries since they could be penalised for the carbon-intensiveness of their products, it said. Instead solar, wind and hydro power should be invested in as well as batteries for storage.

“Electricity planning should be anchored on least-cost pathways. All models reviewed showed that a least-cost energy model would be made up of investment in variable renewable energy,” the commission said. “None of the models build new coal or nuclear or have gas at high utilisations.”

The IRP should also include details on how the national grid will be strengthened and where, it said. The weakness of the grid, especially in undeveloped provinces with the best wind and solar potential, has slowed the adoption of renewable energy.

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The commission recommended that the President order an independent study into how electricity is priced in the country. It should explore how Eskom would be able to recover its costs. It should also recommend how municipalities could modernise their electricity models to allow the purchase of electricity produced from rooftop solar panels and other privately owned plants.

The commission said it “understands” that the updated IRP, will detail how the electricity industry could be developed until 2050 and will, unlike previous editions, detail what’s needed in terms of expanding the transmission grid. Bloomberg/DM

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  • Paul Cape says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Alan Mathers recently, at a funeral of all things, and was blown away with the scale of the project he is involved with to bring renewable power to the UK from Morocco by 2030. You should check out Xlinks on the internet, and it is totally privately funded. We have so many private funds in South Africa already, AIIM is one, building renewable projects in Africa could we not get a consortium of funders and engineers around a table and encourage this kind of project for ourselves?

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