South Africa has released its new energy plan that paves the way for sustainable electricity sources by 2030. Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe announced the Integrated Resource Plan 2018 at the end of August, and Cabinet is due to sign it into effect.
This new blueprint for South Africa’s energy places a new focus on wind, gas and solar power as the main alternatives to coal. The Department of Energy will use this plan as a guideline for the construction of new energy plants and in awarding tenders.
According to Radebe, the demand for energy in South Africa is dropping slightly – the demand in 2018 is the same as it was in 2007. This is due to more private energy companies entering the market with sustainable sources of power, such as solar and wind, as well as technological improvements in the energy efficiency of industry.
The plan outlines the 2030 South African energy grid as follows:
- 74 798-megawatts in total
- 34 000-megawatts from coal (45%)
- 11 930-megawatts from gas (16%)
- 11 442-megawatts from wind (15%)
- 7 958-megawatts from solar (11%)
- 4 696-megawatts from hydroelectric (6%)
- 2 912-megawatts from pumped storage (4%)
- 1 860-megawatts from nuclear (3%)
Reliance on coal to be greatly reduced
As it stands, South Africa is heavily-reliant on coal-fired power stations – nearly 80% of our electricity comes from coal. The new energy plan will push for a gradual shift away from coal over the coming decades.
Many of the old coal-fired power plants (built in the 1960s and 70s) will be decommissioned by 2030, resulting in a third of Eskom’s capacity being shut down. Most of the remaining coal-fired electricity will come from the Medupi and Kusile mega-stations.
South Africa is a signatory of the Paris Agreement which states the country’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions. As coal-fired power stations are heavy emitters of greenhouse gases, they will be slowly phased out over the coming decade.
Renewable energy to be pushed
The cost of renewable energy sources is dropping every year. Solar panels and wind turbines are becoming more efficient and affordable. These technologies are already taking hold in South Africa.
The main argument against wind and solar is no longer their cost, but rather the dependence on weather conditions for optimal energy production. However, with better storage solutions, the energy generated by solar and wind can be stored and released when the weather is not ideal.
Along with wind and solar energy, the new plan also places more reliance on gas power stations. Gas is cheaper than coal and the plants can be turned on and off quickly. By 2030, the proposed energy plan assumes that 16% of South Africa’s energy needs will come from gas.
Nuclear power to be put on ice
The current presidential administration has ruled out further nuclear developments. Although nuclear power plants provide constant energy with almost no carbon emissions, they are simply too expensive to build.
Nuclear power plant construction is also a lengthy process, which means that projects are often subject to delays and cost overruns. President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that under the current economic climate, nuclear is not a viable solution for South Africa’s energy needs.
South Africa’s new electricity plan is a positive step for sustainability and reduced dependence on coal. Environmentally-friendly energy sources will be given more prominence and the grid of 2030 will be more sustainable and green.
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