Mining companies in South Africa are pushing to develop self-reliant power generation capacity due to the persistent unreliability of the country’s national power utility company, Eskom, by spending up to $2.7 billion to develop 2 GW of renewable energy to supplement its energy requirements.
Announced during a virtual panel discussion on 23 September, the mining industry’s plans to develop renewable energy plants follow this year’s decision by the Government of South Africa that permits the construction of plants with a capacity of up to 100 MW without government licenses.
“Eskom simply can’t provide that extra power; we have had the discussion with them. That power will obviously not only assist the national grid and ourselves, but also contribute towards the decarbonization of the economy over time,” stated CEO of the Minerals Council of South Africa, Roger Baxter, adding, “Our members have already indicated that they are planning to invest in about 2 GW of renewable energy, supplementary embedded generation. That is going to cost something between R30 billion ($2 billion) and R40 billion ($2.7 billion).”
During the presentation, it was noted that the mining industry, which accounts for 60% of the country’s $302 billion economy, is heavily reliant on power generation derived from coal, which still accounts for approximately 82% of the country’s electricity production while renewable sources account for merely 5.6%.
The southern African country is the continent’s largest economy and the 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. The decarbonization of the mining industry is imperative to meeting South Africa’s decarbonization plan under its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) reduction targets, with aims of mitigating 420 megatons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030.
The Minerals Council of South Africa has expressed their support for the mining industry’s intent to curb annual emissions while making it clear that the targets should not disrupt the industry’s energy supply and security.
“This energy and associated energy-intensive complex helped to develop the most industrialized country in Africa,” said Baxter, concluding, “We support the transition to a low-carbon economy and society – contingent on doing it judiciously and systematically.”