South Africa's Eskom Moves Ahead With Komati Repurposing Project
The site of the coal-fired power plant will be reused for renewables projects.
The Eskom Just Energy Transition Project (EJETP) in South Africa is moving forward, with the process of appointing consultants currently underway.
EJETP is the first decommissioning and repurposing project for South Africa to demonstrate that coal plants can be retired sustainably. Its current objective is to decommission the 56-year-old Komati coal-fired power plant and reconfigure the site to produce renewable energy.
The US$497 million project is financed by a US $439.5 million World Bank loan, a US $47.5 million concessional loan from the Canadian Clean Energy and Forest Climate Facility (CCEFCF), and a US$10 million grant from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). The funding is expected to become effective by the end of July.
The loan facility will cover three main components:
- Decommissioning the Komati power station
- Repurposing the project area
- Repowering the station
The 1GW plant's final unit, the 125MW Unit 9 was shut down on 31 October 2022. The other eight units were taken out of operation between February 2017 and May 2022.
The first phase of repurposing the project area entails installing 150MW of photovoltaic solar, 70MW of wind turbines and a 150MW battery energy storage system (BESS) with synchronous condensers. Agrivoltaics and aquaponics schemes and the development of a microgrid assembly line will follow.
The implementation activities are projected to take place over five years.
During the transition process, opportunities will be created for the former power plant workers and communities affected by the changes.
During a Presidential Climate Commission stakeholder meeting at the Komati site on 7 July, progress updates were given on the project. An owner’s engineer will be appointed in August to support the development and execution of the repowering projects, following recent ministerial approval to proceed with the redevelopment.
Market engagement for the solar and BESS projects is expected in the second quarter of 2024 and for the wind projects in the third quarter of next year.
The project supports South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which calls for reducing the share of fossil fuels in the country's primary energy mix and scaling up renewable energy. It states that wind and solar are the best option, least cost technologies available for South Africa.
According to the IRP, South Africa needs to retire 12GW of coal plants and add 18GW of wind and solar PV to meet its energy needs by 2030.
The government has set a goal to transition South Africa to a low-carbon, resilient economy by 2050.
Other power stations due to be redeveloped include the Camden, Hendrina and Grootvlei plants.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has urged for urgency in the steps to repurpose and re-power the station, and in balancing decarbonisation imperatives with the need to mitigate impact of the energy transition on communities, jobs and economy. #JustEnergyTransition pic.twitter.com/1CfQlsz4RQ— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) July 7, 2023
Photo: Komati power plant (Source: Eskom website)