January 2016 is the month in which South Africa’s first privately-owned coal-fired power stations are expected to be announced.
According to a report by the Sunday Times, several companies are vying for approval from the Department of Energy to build the independent power stations.
South Africa has suffered from severe electricity shortages since 2008, which has resulted in load shedding across the country and cost us millions in lost business and investment.
The department aims to approve an additional 2,500MW of coal-fuelled electricity during its first round of approvals, stated the report, for which companies submitted their bids in November 2015.
“It’s really a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said coal industry expert Xavier Prevost.
Department of Energy’s criteria
The energy department has set several minimum requirements for the power projects, including the need for them the be 51% South African-owned, and 30% black-owned.
Groundwork SA director Bobby Peek said he was concerned that the projects were being pushed through in terms of environmental approvals. This could lead to residents in nearby areas suffering from respiratory diseases, he said.
He said South Africa was already exceeding its greenhouse gas emissions targets, and more coal power stations would add to emissions.
South Africa’s two latest power stations, Medupi and Kusile, are currently under construction and years behind schedule – with Eskom extending completion dates several times over recent years.
Medupi and Kusile are expected to be completed by 2021.