coal transition
Duvha coal power station. Credit Eskom

The World Bank and African Development Bank are just some of the institutions that have been approached by Africa’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter – Eskom – to fund a $10 billion plan to shut down the vast majority of its coal-fired plants by 2050 and embrace renewable energy.

Speaking to Reuters, Mandy Rambharos, general manager at Eskom’s Just Energy Transition office, said: “It’s a lot of money, so what we are putting on the table is to say to funders: South Africa can offer you the biggest point source of carbon emissions reduction in the world.”

South Africa’s carbon-intensive power generation has been highlighted as a potential risk for investors into the country, and Rambharos says the time to act to address this risk is now.

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“We will be left in this little bubble where we are not going to be able to export our wine or our fruit or our cars if we don’t transition,” she said. “The whole world is transitioning, we have to get on this bandwagon – for South Africa to remain competitive and for our economy to grow.”

Eskom currently emits around 213 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year and is looking for Eskom, which approximately $7 to $8 for every tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent it can cut from its greenhouse gas emissions.

Rambharos said Eskom was modelling different scenarios to reach its target of “net zero” emissions by 2050. Part of that strategy is to have some funding lined up ahead of COP26 in November and includes plans to repurpose the Komati coal plant utilising solar and battery storage. This would be an ideal way of showing Eskom’s commitment to reducing emissions.

The South African Integrated Resource Plan proposes that Eskom removes 35,000MW of coal fired generation by 2050 – out of an installed capacity of 41,000MW.

Listen to our podcast discussion with Mandy Rambharos

According to the Reuters report: “A bolder [plan] would see even Medupi and Kusile, which will be two of the world’s largest coal plants when fully operational, shuttered in the 2040s, at least 20 years ahead of schedule and leaving Eskom with no coal by 2050 from 15 stations now.”

Says Rambharos: “That is the future. I don’t think we can look at 2050 and still see fossil fuels in there to be honest.”