Can South Africa Embrace Renewables?

Coal remains South Africa’s main source of electricity, despite the fact that many areas of the country average more than 2,500 hours of sunshine a year.

By contrast, the UK averages just 1,500 hours of sunshine per year, so it would make perfect sense for South Africa to make better use of this abundant source of energy to generate its own electricity.

Over the next decade, this energy supply landscape could change dramatically.

In June it emerged that South Africa’s state energy company Eskom, Africa’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, is submitting a $ 10bn (£ 7.4bn) plan to shut down the vast majority of its plants. coal-fired power plants by 2050 and adopt renewable energy.

During the COP26 climate summit, the US, the EU, the UK, Germany and France pledged $ 8.5 billion over the next five years to help South Africa’s grand plan go green.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter says the announcement of COP26 will allow South Africa to achieve its “new and ambitious” goals.

But many wonder if Eskom is capable of such a great transformation.

The company is reeling under a $ 27 billion debt load, which has hampered investment in its already weakened infrastructure. Continuous blackouts, known as “loss of load,” are a common occurrence across the country.

It is clear that something must be done. South Africa is the twelfth largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world and the largest emitter in Africa, according to the Global Carbon Atlas.

Even if Eskom decided to keep the coal, the company says it would need more than $ 20 billion for its old coal-fired power plants to meet South Africa’s current minimum emissions standards.

So some sort of shift to renewables seems inevitable, but industry experts agree with De Ruyter that his plan is ambitious.

Sharief Harris, jefe de desarrollo de Red Rocket Energy, una empresa privada de energía verde, dice que si hay alguna esperanza de hacer la transición a la energía renovable, Eskom primero debe abordar su infraestructura defectuosa y sus desafíos financieros.

Harris también señala que además de construir plantas solares y parques eólicos, Eskom tendría que gastar más dinero para conectarlos a la electricidad.

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