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South Africa Is Set to Run Coal Power Plants for Longer Than Planned

Eskom, the state-held utility of South Africa, plans to operate some coal-fired power plants for longer than initially envisaged to avoid making an already vulnerable grid more unreliable, the company’s CEO said on Tuesday.

South Africa has been in the grips of an energy crisis with daily rolling power cuts that have been crippling the economy as Eskom continually fails to boost generation capacity to keep pace with growing demand in recent years. 

South Africa, one of the world’s largest coal producers and exporters, continues to rely on coal for a large part of its energy mix. Currently, some 85% of South Africa’s electricity is generated via coal-fired power stations.

To avoid unnecessary additional stress on the grid, Eskom now plans to extend the life of some coal-fired power plants instead of shutting them down by 2030, as expected earlier.

“We’ll continue some of our coal operations that were earmarked for shutting down,” Dan Marokane, chief executive officer of Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, said at a conference, as carried by Bloomberg.

“We’ll review that process on shorter time intervals going to 2030, but we’ll place ourselves in a position where we are not made vulnerable by early shutting down of those stations,” the executive added. 

South Africa continues to be committed to reducing emissions but grid reliability cannot be overlooked, according to Eskom executives.

Currently, Eskom is holding talks with the government on ways to attract public and private financing of the equivalent of $21 billion for a major expansion of the power grid to accommodate an expected rise in renewable energy.

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Eskom has estimated that it needs $21 billion (390 billion South African rand) to fund its plan to build nearly 9,000 miles of new power lines over the next decade, which would be more than triple the miles of transmission lines it has installed in the past decade, the company told Bloomberg last month.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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