Tshwane seeks to breathe new life in power plants

Johannesburg - The City of Tshwane is seeking proposals to renovate two coal-fired power plants to help end electricity shortages caused by insufficient generating capacity at the state-owned utility.

The municipal authority, which covers an area with at least 2.9 million inhabitants, wants to restore output at its Pretoria West and Rooiwal power plants to their design capacity and to alter the fuel they use from anthracite, an expensive quality coal, Dorah Nteo, chief sustainability specialist at the City of Tshwane, said in a presentation at Bloomberg’s Johannesburg offices on Tuesday.

The Pretoria West power plant, built in 1952, has a design capacity of 180 megawatts of power while the Rooiwal facility, erected in 1963, is designed to produce 450 megawatts. Both are operating considerably below their capacity partly because they have been designed to use anthracite, a grade of coal that is more profitable to export, she said.

Tshwane, like other South African municipalities, is struggling with national legislation that makes it difficult for cities to buy power directly, she said.

“As cities we are still not allowed to buy electricity,” she said.

Still, the municipality has been able to work within the regulations to have a biogas-to-power plant supply a BMW car factory in the city, she said. It’s also proceeding with a plan to build a 40 megawatt solar-power facility.

What “we need to make sure of is that we have embedded generation,” she said. “We will consume the electricity from within the city so that we demonstrate somehow that we are not buying or selling.”

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