The Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) has suggested that the government consider delaying the retirement of its ageing coal-fired power plants to address electricity shortages as reported by Economic Times. The ruling African National Congress has recommended this delay to minimise rolling electricity outages.
However, South Africa is also committed to a plan funded by Western donors to shift from coal to solar and wind energy. President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that this transition’s total cost could be significantly higher than the financing donors offer.
According to Crispian Olver, the executive director of the PCC, the least-cost approach would be to decommission the coal plants when they reach the end of their economic life, where it becomes more expensive to maintain them than to let them go. Olver believes that delaying the decommissioning by a couple of years would not fundamentally impact South Africa’s nationally determined contributions to emissions reductions. He attributes the country’s progress in emission reductions to the extent of power cuts and sluggish economic growth.
South Africa heavily relies on coal for electricity generation, emitting 430 megatonnes of CO2 in 2021, making it the world’s 14th largest carbon emitter. The country’s national targets for emissions reductions are 398-510 MtCO2e by 2025 and 350-420 MtCO2e by 2030. The German embassy has emphasised the importance of South Africa’s efforts to reach its climate goals and transition to a more sustainable economy without jeopardising them. However, due to the global energy crisis, Germany has had to delay decommissioning some coal-fired plants.
The German embassy stated that it is already cheaper to build new renewable energy and storage facilities in South Africa than to maintain certain existing coal-fired power stations operated by Eskom, the state power utility. In addition, South African government officials have held discussions with diplomats from donor countries regarding the possibility of delaying the decommissioning process.
Eskom has been implementing severe power cuts, lasting over 10 hours a day for most households, which have had a detrimental impact on businesses in South Africa, the most industrialised economy in Africa.
Photo: Twitter / @Presidential Climate Commission