September 28, 2021

South Africa is turning to gas power

Power failures have develop into routine in South Africa. On the identical time, the nation needs to wean itself off the coal that generates greater than 80% of its electrical energy and makes it the world’s ­twelfth‑greatest supply of greenhouse gases.

Most of South Africa’s power stations are close to the top of their lives. A mean of about 1,000 megawatts of capability is set to be decommissioned yearly over the subsequent decade, which presents a super alternative to start overhauling the vitality system. The query is how.

The federal government goals to lower emissions to net-zero by 2050. Its vitality blueprint envisions the development of scores of solar- and wind-powered vegetation. However there are widespread doubts that these tasks can occur quick sufficient, or be dependable sufficient, to exchange coal.

So a controversial fossil gas stays a part of the deliberate vitality combine: pure gas.

“Electricity capacity will have to be replaced,” mineral sources minister Gwede Mantashe mentioned on June 11 throughout an interview in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, the place he steered that new pipelines could possibly be constructed to faucet extra pure gas from the nation’s offshore fields. “Gas is an alternative,” he mentioned. “It can be a game-changer.”

Plans to use pure gas to produce a minimum of 1 / 4 of just about 12,000MW of extra power by 2030 are hotly contested. The gas generates lower than half the greenhouse gases that coal does, however changing the dirtiest fossil gas with a cleaner one will make South Africa’s emissions goal troublesome to meet.

Financing for gas-fired vegetation can also be arduous to come by. A number of growth finance establishments, that are essential funders of many vitality tasks in Africa, are revising their funding mandates to exclude the gas.

South Africa could have to depend on firms equivalent to Common Electrical Co and Exxon Mobil Corp which have expressed curiosity in growing the brand new gas tasks.

“Gas is seen as a bridge to transitioning South Africa away from coal power while allowing the country to maintain its goals of economic generation through industrialization,” says Shridaran Pillay, Africa director in danger advisory service Eurasia Group.

“I do not think that renewables in South Africa could be scaled to a level where they would provide the same opportunity to replace base-load generation in a way that gas can at this stage.”

Elisee Sezan, chief government officer of Common Electrical’s gas power enterprise in sub-Saharan Africa, sees the present capability and value of batteries as the principle limiting components to the expanded use of inexperienced vitality.

The constraints of being closely reliant on renewables have been seen in California, which had two days of rolling blackouts in a part of the state final 12 months when the worst heatwave in a minimum of 25 years overwhelmed the grid. The state is investing in battery storage to guarantee a dependable power provide.

However some say that drawback will probably be resolved as battery storage expertise evolves and prices fall over the subsequent few years. The chance is that South Africa gained’t have the option to take full benefit if it will get locked into comparatively new gas infrastructure and fossil fuels.

“From an economics perspective, it doesn’t really make sense to build significantly more new coal or gas—even running existing coal becomes more expensive than building new solar in the late 2020s,” says Emma Champion, an analyst at BloombergNEF.

She says she doesn’t anticipate any vital enhance in power demand for the subsequent decade, so it might make extra sense to hold current coal-fired vegetation working for longer whereas including renewable capability, relatively than growing gas tasks.

Know-how exists to recondition lithium batteries, extending their life span to about 15 years, in accordance to Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens AG’s South African unit. “Gas does seem to be a transition technology,” she says.

“But I do believe, looking at what coal is going through, that these assets will be more difficult to fund going forward.”

Current efforts to develop new coal tasks in South Africa have been thwarted by courtroom challenges or a scarcity of financing.

Andy Calitz, secretary general-elect of the Switzerland-based Worldwide Gas Union—a commerce group that advocates for the usage of gas—says South Africa wants the gas to flip round its struggling financial system and tackle a 33% unemployment charge.

“South Africa’s first energy priority is to secure a reliable power supply, secondly to have more affordable electricity and energy prices, and thirdly to address climate change. This cannot be done without gas,” says Calitz, who beforehand labored as {an electrical} engineer at Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd – the nation’s state power utility -and later as CEO of LNG Canada.

“Let investors decide about the risk of the assets being stranded.”

Plans to develop gas-fired vegetation date again to 2015, however they fell by the wayside as then-President Jacob Zuma’s administration pivoted towards nuclear vegetation.

Gas staged a comeback after the ruling African Nationwide Congress compelled Zuma to step down and changed him together with his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa.

In March the federal government chosen Turkey’s Karpowership as a most well-liked bidder to provide about 1,220MW of electrical energy from gas-fired floating power stations, a contract value an estimated $16 billion over 20 years. However the firm’s environmental allow functions have been rejected amid opposition from environmental activists.

Eskom, which provides about 90% of South Africa’s power, plans to convert current generators from diesel to gas. It’s additionally contemplating rehabilitating some decommissioned vegetation to use the gas. It says financing choices stay accessible.

South Africa already imports gas from Mozambique via a pipeline to chemical and gas vegetation operated by Sasol Ltd. Large new gas deposits have been discovered off the coast of Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province, although their growth has been delayed by an Islamist insurgency.

South Africa is additionally wanting to produce extra of its personal gas. French big TotalEnergies SE is contemplating growing a subject off South Africa’s southern coast that incorporates an estimated 1 billion barrels of gas condensate.

The federal government says that there’s additionally potential to faucet shale gas reserves within the semidesert area of Karoo.

“In an alternative universe, one would immediately eliminate fossil fuel-generated energy such as coal and petroleum,” Mantashe informed lawmakers on Might 18.

“We are committed to a just transition and have begun investing in clean technologies to ensure that we transition from a high- to low-carbon economy, while ensuring security of energy supply.”


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