Approximately 80% of electricity generated by Eskom comes from coal, which places South Africa at huge risk in a world that is transitioning to cleaner technologies to mitigate climate change.
This is feedback from energy expert Chris Yelland, who warned, “if we do not change, we will be punished”.
Apart from the environmental impact of using coal-fired power stations, it also costs the country more to generate electricity.
Coal and nuclear used to be the cheapest methods to generate base-load power, but this is no longer the case.
“In fact, coal and nuclear are now the most expensive,” Yelland said.
The cheapest form of power is now renewable energy such as wind and solar. South Africa should therefore be generating as much power as possible from renewable sources.
To complement cheap but variable renewable energy, flexible power generation from gas-to-power, battery energy storage, and pumped water storage can be used.
It is also much quicker to build renewable energy plants. Poor-performing coal-fired power stations should therefore be replaced with wind, solar PV, battery storage, and gas-to-power generation.
With South Africa needing 6,000MW of new generation capacity in the next two to three years, investments in renewable energy should be encouraged.
Yelland said the easiest way to achieve this additional capacity quickly is to allow and incentivise Eskom customers to become part of the solution by generating their own electricity.
“We must not just have one failing generation company. We must have hundreds or thousands of embedded generators all over the country,” he said.
This additional generation capacity will relieve the burden on Eskom, which clearly cannot meet its obligation to supply electricity reliably.
This echoes the views of Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter, who said the only way to eradicate load-shedding is to get more generation capacity from independent power producers (IPP).
“We therefore welcome continued efforts by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to add new capacity to the grid using various IPP programmes,” he said.