‘The Komati Project’ gets $497m renewable energy boost
Days before COP27, SA has taken another step towards renewable energy investment.
Komati coal-fired power station, which was decommissioned after 61 years. Photo: Eskom
Eskom’s Komati coal-fired power plant, which was decommissioned earlier this week, has received an over R9 billion boost from the World Bank.
In a statement released on Friday, the World Bank board of executive directors approved South Africa’s request for funding to the value of $497 million for ‘The Komati Project‘.
Funding a renewable future
The World Bank loan accounts for $439.5 million, with $47.5 million coming from a concessional loan from the Canadian Clean Energy and Forest Climate Facility, and $10 million from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program.
The funds are for the former power plant to be converted into a renewable energy generation site.
The plan, according to Eskom, is to install 150MW of solar, 70MW of wind and 150MW worth of storage batteries at the site, amounting to 220MW of renewable energy.
A “containerised micro-grid assembly factory” has already been constructed.
The funding boost is in a bid to fulfil South Africa’s much-needed just energy transition (JET) plans, and will also solidify more reliable power generation.
South Africa’s JET framework involves minimising the socio-economic impacts of moving from coal to renewable energy. This involves improving the livelihoods of those who are vulnerable to change, and upskilling those currently working in the coal sector.
Eskom also has plans to create a Komati training facility, which it said would facilitate the “reskilling, retraining and upskiling of Eskom employees and memebrs of the community”.
This allows livelihoods within local communities to transition along with the energy sector it is so dependant.
Approximately 15 000 people stand to benefit from the facility.
Cutting down emissions
The move is a breath of fresh air for the planet as well.
Currently, 15 coal-fired power plants account for 41% of the country’s CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions.
The plants are regrettably integral to the ailing power grid, contributing 38.7GW of South AFrica’s 52.5GW of installed capacity.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a difficult challenge worldwide, and particularly in South Africa
given the high carbon intensity of the energy sector,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass.
“Closing the Komati plant this week is a good first step toward low carbon development. We are cognisant of the social challenges of the transition, and we are partnering with the government, civil society, and unions to create economic opportunities for affected workers and communities.”
“This project is critical to our understanding of the sustainability of decommissioning, repurposing, and mitigating the socio-economic impacts for workers and communities before we scale up the move of the power sector into a low-carbon path,” said Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.
“It is part of implementing the country’s Integrated Resource Plan 2019 to gradually retire 12GW of our old and inefficient coal-fired power fleet by 2030 and to scale up private sector-led renewables of 18GW during the same period.”
Last month, Eskom allocated 8 184 hectares of land to four independent power producers to construct clean energy plants at Majuba and Tutuka power stations for 25 to 30 years.
The IPPs, HDF Energy South Africa, Red Rocket SA, Sola Group and Mainstream Renewable Power Developments South Africa, are expected to pump an estimated 2 000MW to the national electricity grid within the next two to three years.
Eskom said investor appetite within the renewable space in South Africa could result in billions of rands, in addition to more reliable power supply.
Billions and COP27
The country received a much-needed boost in the form of an $8.5 billion (R131 billion) pledge from France, Germany, the UK, the US and the European Union, it was confirmed at the 26th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland last year.
The promised billions to South Africa was said to be given to the country over the next three to five years, in the form of grants and concessional finance, to allow for a smoot JET.
Plans on how the billions will be spent to decarbonise the country will be announced at COP27 in Egypt. The conference starts on Sunday.
Ramaphosa said at COP26 the billions in grants, loans and concessions would enable the country “to implement our ambitious goals and to develop a model for a just transition that we hope can be used elsewhere”.