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Coal on its way out as SA’s energy source


The SA Communist Party has gone as far as to blame Eskom’s woes on IPPs

File photo: Nadine Hutton / Bloomberg

WHILE most of the world is moving away from coal for electricity generation, some vested interests are hell-bent on ensuring that, even though it defies all logic, South Africa continues to depend on coal-fired power stations.

After the ANC rejected former president Jacob Zuma’s ambitious and unaffordable nuclear build programme with the Russians, some of his supporters (and even his opponents) have coalesced to wage war on independent power producers, or IPPs for short.

The SA Communist Party has gone as far as to blame Eskom’s woes on IPPs.

Eskom’s former acting chief executive officer, Matshela Koko, who left the power utility under a cloud, says an agreement signed last year with IPPs was illegal and unconstitutional.

An application to have the agreement scrapped is set to be heard in the high court later this month.

Coal mines which have been contracted to supply Eskom’s power stations in Mpumalanga have seen a steady decline in production volumes, while the Guptas’ Tegeta mining operations filed for business rescue.

All this has impacted on the steady supply of coal to fire several of Eskom’s power stations.

Last year, Eskom signed power purchase agreements with IPPs worth R56 billion, after many delays by the parastatal’s previous board.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s application last year to stall the signing was dismissed by the North Gauteng High Court.

The signing of those contracts makes sense because most areas in South Africa receive more than 2500 hours of sunshine a year, with a solar radiation level of between 4.5 and 6.5kWh/m2 per day.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for 2018 will see South Africa gradually moving away from coal in favour of solar and wind energy.

The IRP 2018 states that coal will contribute less than 30% of energy supplied in 2030, and less than 20% by 2050.

The SACP has accused IPPs of “milking” Eskom due to the aforementioned power purchase agreements signed with the IPPs, and wants to prevent South Africa from exporting coal.

Someone should tell the SACP that the world is gradually moving away from coal, and that in terms of energy production, the sun and wind are more reliable resources of energy.