We've got news for you.

Register on SowetanLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

President talks power to the people as he promises coal-fired plants won't be phased out

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the party's provincial executive committee in Pietermaritzburg on Monday.
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the party's provincial executive committee in Pietermaritzburg on Monday.
Image: Screengrab/FB LIVE

President Cyril Ramaphosa has alleviated fears that the country’s transition towards renewable energy will mean the end of coal-fired power stations.

He said he had always communicated that most of SA’s energy was generated from coal, making it almost impossible to ditch it for renewables.

“People often say that with these renewable energy processes, we want to move away from coal. Eighty percent of our energy is generated from coal-fired power stations, and we’ve just built two big ones right now which generate almost 10,000MW. Even as we’re entering all these discussions to energy transition, I have made it clear to those I meet on the international platforms that there is no way at all in SA we can go and shut down the coal-fired power stations.”

Ramaphosa was speaking during the second day of the KZN provincial executive committee of the ANC at the Msunduzi Athletic Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Monday.

However, the president conceded most of the power stations were ageing, saying they were 43 years old on average. That made them expensive to run and maintain, which is why they needed to retire them.

“But instead of retiring them we’ve come up with a new concept to repurpose them. We're aiming to improve the performance of existing power stations right now, 80% of which are coal-fired. Our other objective is to add new capacity to address current prices. To do that we are going to look at renewables. In renewables there are a lot of great opportunities, and new industries that are being opened,” he said.

He vowed that the transition from those ageing coal power stations to renewables, particularly gas-powered power stations, would have minimal impact on the lives of the communities around them.

“We will make sure it becomes a just transition process, that the community around the power stations would not lose their livelihood as much as we possibly can and that the workers are retrained to work with the gas-powered power station,” he said.

Ramaphosa used the Northern Cape as a case study where these industries and opportunities were evident. He said the province, like the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, were well endowed with sunshine and wind.

“These are new technologically advanced sources of energy we can use. That’s why we embark on an IPP programme, which for the Northern Cape has brought in almost R200bn in investment. In a number of areas jobs are being created, and we are now moving to new technologies to generate electricity. Other sources are wind and gas,” he said

“We need to bring more capacity, we are short of 6,000MW.”

He also lamented the lack of maintenance of power stations in the lead-up to the year 2010, blaming it for the crisis.

“In the past, one of the problems was that over time we did not maintain our power stations. We went through a period at Eskom where the word issued was ‘don’t maintain, just run the power stations and keep the lights on’, particularly as we went to 2010. What we are reaping today is that many of the plants were not properly maintained, and the funding for maintaining them was also not made available,” he said.

He added the government had committed to a mixed form of energy: coal, gas, hydro, wind, sun, nuclear and biogas.

“That is the mixture of energy sources we have committed ourselves to, but at the moment we have 80% of coal-fired [plants], and we have built two new power station where we spent double the amount of money we’d budgeted. In one case we had set to pay R62bn, we ended up paying double that. In another we set R72bn and ended up paying R142bn.”

Ramaphosa reiterated he had engaged the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) to reconsider the 18.65% electricity hike it had proposed for Eskom.


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.