Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned power utility, has announced its plans to invest in renewable energy and transmission infrastructure as part of its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and improve its operational performance.
According to its latest Transmission Development Plan (TDP) for the period 2022 to 2031, Eskom intends to connect 30 GW of new generation capacity, mainly from solar and wind sources, in areas with limited network infrastructure. To do so, it will increase the transmission infrastructure by about 8 400 km of extra-high-voltage lines and 119 transformers, with a total capital plan of R178 billion over the next 10 years.
Eskom’s Group Executive for Transmission, Segomoco Scheppers, said that the utility was making progress in connecting the projects procured through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) and the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP), which are expected to add 4 800 MW of capacity by 2024/25.Embed from Getty Images
He also said that Eskom was working on diversifying its energy mix and providing non-discriminatory access to the grid, in line with the policy direction of the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019 (IRP2019) and the Grid Code.
Eskom’s transition to renewable energy is crucial for South Africa, which is the world’s 12th biggest carbon emitter, pumping out 430 megatonnes of CO2 in 2019. With coal-fired power plants accounting for 80% of its power generation, Eskom’s shift to cleaner sources could significantly reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the global fight against climate change.
However, Eskom’s transition also faces several challenges, such as corruption, mismanagement, lack of investment and maintenance, policy uncertainty, and social impacts. Eskom’s former CEO Andre de Ruyter has agreed to appear before MPs to provide information on corruption allegations that he made in a television interview last month. He then resigned in December and left the post weeks before the end of his notice period.
The National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the biggest labour union at Eskom, has disputed a claim by electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa that Eskom’s underperformance was not related to widespread corruption. The union also expressed concerns about the potential job losses and community impacts that could result from Eskom’s closure of coal-fired power plants.
Eskom’s transition to renewable energy is therefore not only a technical and financial challenge, but also a political and social one. It requires cooperation and coordination among various stakeholders, such as the government, the private sector, the labour unions, and the civil society. It also requires a clear vision and strategy that balances the economic, environmental, and social objectives of the country.