Electricity pylons at an Eskom coal-burning power station near Sasolburg. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO
Electricity pylons at an Eskom coal-burning power station near Sasolburg. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

The government wants to attract investment in cutting-edge coal technologies to reduce the impact of its coal-fired power generation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

This follows Friday’s release of the updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) — a policy blueprint for the country’s energy needs until 2030.

In a weekly newsletter, issued from the desk of the president, Ramaphosa said the plan supports a diversified energy mix that includes coal, natural gas, renewable energy, battery storage and nuclear power.

“Because coal remains the dominant energy source for our country we will be focusing on attracting investment in high-efficiency, low-emission coal technologies,” he said.

SA has to reduce its carbon emissions in line with its commitments at the climate change conference held in Paris in 2015, the president said. 

The plan sees coal providing 43% of SA’s installed power-generating capacity by 2030. 

Such advanced technologies are used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions levels, airborne pollutants and other environmental impacts.

The IRP also envisages a move towards steadily reducing emissions through a greater uptake of renewable power.

“Alongside this, we need to implement a ‘just transition’ to ensure that communities and workers whose livelihoods depend on the fossil fuel industries are not left behind. That is why we will be developing a clear framework for the process of decommissioning coal-fired power stations that have reached the end of their operational cycle,” he said.

While the IRP spells out the country’s long-term plans, Ramaphosa said SA must address its most pressing challenge, which is getting Eskom out of its financial and operational crisis.

The urgency with which government must act was made clearer when load-shedding was reinstituted, Ramaphosa said.

The government will soon announce the appointment of a new Eskom CEO who, together with a strengthened board, will be tasked with turning the entity around. They will be guided by the path set out in the special paper on Eskom, which will also be released shortly.

Ramaphosa, however, warned that tough decisions have to be made.

“There will have to be trade-offs. All sectors of society, especially government, business and labour, must work together to bring this crisis to an end.”

steynl@businesslive.co.za