Green power won’t close coal stations

There isn’t a link between the impending decommissioning of old Eskom power plants and the move to sign renewable contracts, said Thabanga Audat, the acting deputy director-general of policy and planning at the department of energy, this week.

“Decommissioning is going to happen whether there are renewables or not. We don’t believe decommissioning is linked to the introduction of the new [renewable] power plants,” Audat said.

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe and Eskom were scheduled to sign contracts for 27 projects this week, however, Transform RSA, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the Coal Transportation Forum went to court to halt the signing. The matter will be addressed in court again on March 27.

The three entities said that the introduction of extra renewable energy supply would add to the power surplus and would lead to Eskom shutting down the Komati, Hendrina, Arnot, Camden and Grootvlei power stations.

The court papers say that these closures would lead to more than 1 million people losing their jobs at Eskom and its associated suppliers.

Audat said: “When we have a discussion with them, the discussion will be around the decommissioning and what happens to those employed at the coal mines, as well as at the respective power plants.

“If you decommission, you reduce the supply of electricity, so if government doesn’t introduce new supply now, we will have a demand-supply issue. We will go back to 2008, when we didn’t have enough supply to meet the demand. That is precisely what we are trying to avoid by introducing new plants now.”

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