World Bank provides funding to repurpose South African coal plant using renewables and storage

A 75MW PV plant in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Image: Scatec.

The World Bank has approved funding for a US$497 million renewable energy project in South Africa that will see 150MW of solar and 70MW of wind capacity installed in place of the coal-fired Komati power plant.

The primary aim of the project, fully entitled the ‘Komati Just Energy Transition Project’, is to decommission and repurpose the Komati coal-fired plant, one of 15 coal-fired plants in South African public electricity utility Eskom’s fleet that constitutes 39.8GW of the country’s 52.5GW installed capacity. The power sector accounts for 41% of South Africa’s greenhouse emissions, in large part due to this fleet of coal-fired plants.

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The project will also feature 150MW of battery storage. The World Bank stated that the installation of the solar and wind resources will help to improve energy security and grid stability in South Africa, as the country’s government pushes to refocus its electricity distribution towards renewables.

 “[The project] 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,” said Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s minister of public enterprises.

In late July of this year, the South African government announced a set of policy changes to accelerate the deployment of renewables in response to energy crises and shortfalls in electricity supply. Much of the announcement was aimed at handing more deployment power to private generators to mitigate the frequency of blackouts, or load-shedding, in the country. Solar’s role in this was covered in March in PV Tech Premium. Indeed, in October two private companies – mining organisation Anglo American and EDF Renewables – partnered to establish Envusa Energy, a specific South African enterprise to develop renewables projects there.

The project is a part of South Africa’s Just Transition Framework, which aims to mitigate the societal inequalities that can arise from the energy transition. In its statement, The World Bank emphasised the socioeconomic impacts of the Komati Just Energy Transition Project.

World Bank Group president David Malpass said: “We are cognizant 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.”

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