SA Eskom CEO perceives end to calamity in shift from coal

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According to its top executive, Eskom sees an opportunity to emerge from years of disaster by transitioning away from coal-fired power generation and toward natural gas and renewables.

For more than a decade, Eskom has imposed power cutbacks in Africa’s most industrialised nation, stifling economic growth and deterring investment. It owes about 400 billion rand ($25 billion) in debt, which it pays off with government bailouts.

“From the crisis that Eskom currently finds itself in – very poor plant performance, excessive debt – this contains the opportunity for us to really act as the foundation for a new dispensation in South Africa,” CEO Andre de Ruyter told the Reuters Next conference.

“Hopefully we can persuade people to come and set up factories here, to build components for renewable energy, that will create jobs that will create demand for electricity which will turn this challenge that we have got at the moment from a vicious downward cycle into a virtuous upward cycle,” he added.

Eskom owns and runs 15 coal-fired power plants that produce more than 80% of the country’s electricity but are prone to breakdowns.

It also operates Africa’s only nuclear power plant, as well as a number of smaller pumped storage, hydropower, backup gas, and wind farms. However, it plans to shut down some 22,000 megawatts (MW) of coal plants that are nearing the end of their useful lives by 2035, roughly half of its current nominal capacity of 46,000 MW.

The goal is to replace some of that with natural gas and renewables, with independent power producers filling in the gaps.

Story by : Norvisi Mawunyegah