Eskom, the beleaguered South African power utility, should quit coal-fired generation over the next 20 years and focus instead on transmission and regional grids, according to Greenpeace Africa.
Such a shift would require a massive overhaul at Eskom since coal-fed power is the backbone of its fleet. But the debt-strapped utility, which supplies more than 90% of South Africa’s electricity, is under fire from environmental groups who claim it’s far from ready for the global transition to cleaner fuels.
“Eskom’s reform is almost laughably overdue,” Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa’s senior political adviser, said in a statement. “The utility is technically insolvent, inefficient, unable to guarantee security of supply, wildly unprepared for an energy transition to renewable energy and is the country’s biggest emitter of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases.”
Eskom didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Johannesburg-based utility, saddled with more than R440-billion of debt, is seeking major bailouts from a government that doesn’t have the money to spare. The demands of steering the troubled company prompted CEO Phakamani Hadebe to quit last month, after just 16 months in the post.
Mapping out a potential path for the utility, Greenpeace called on Eskom to retire coal-power stations more than 40 years old and sell the remainder by 2040. The company should focus on transmission and distribution, it said, urging South Africa to hold additional independent power-producer auctions for renewable projects. A proposal made in 2003 to set up six regional electricity distributors should also be revived, it said.
Eskom already expects to lose more than a quarter of its generating capacity over the next decade as it shuts ageing coal-fired plants. The cost of replacing that output and adding capacity needed to meet rising demand will take years and cost more than R1-trillion, according to the government. — Reported by Paul Burkhardt, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP