South African mining industry to build 3.9GW of renewables, eases pressure on public utility Eskom

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The South African mining industry is looking to supplement its energy use through renewables and storage. Image: Pixabay

The South African mining industry is planning to build 3.9GW of renewable projects and storage that would see the sector make strides towards meeting its 2050 net zero target and relieve pressure on South African public utility Eskom, which has called on the industry to supplement its energy supply.

The projects, worth an estimated R60 billion (US$3.77 billion), include solar, wind and battery energy storage system (BESS) projects which could provide Eskom with some of that supplemental capacity, said Roger Baxter, CEO of Minerals Council of South Africa, which represents the country’s mining industry.

Earlier this month Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter told a South African Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that the utility needs to add an additional 4GW-6GW of capacity to conduct a reliability maintenance programme while not disrupting national electricity supply.

“There is a pressing need for the mining industry to supplement Eskom electricity supply,” said Baxter, adding that the benefits to the industry included diversifying its electrical supply and reducing exposure to high energy prices, which have increased by more than six-fold over the past decade.

The 3.9GW in question, however, “is purely supplemental and will not detract from critical baseload 24/7 capacity from Eskom,” said a Minerals Council statement.

Council members have increased renewable energy generation by 146% over its 1.6GW target from last year. “The license-free concession for embedded generation of up to 100MW was a major factor in this increase and it is probably the government’s biggest structural reform in two decades,” said Baxter.

“Renewable energy projects in the mining sector could go a long way towards easing the pressure on Eskom to the benefit of other industries and the country as a whole. These projects must be expedited through a smart tape system,” he said, adding that environmental authorisations were an impediment to greater rollout.

In a bid to decarbonise its operations, Eskom last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with mining companies Exxaro and Seriti Resources, which supply 80% of Eskom’s coal per year, to deploy solar PV in order to power their mines.

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