South Africa may need R2.4 trillion for Just Energy Transition

South Africa cannot escape the need to spend significantly on new wind and solar power plants, a BloombergNEF study shows.

Under a range of scenarios considered by researchers, the country may need to spend as much as R2.4 trillion ($136 billion) on new power generation capacity over the next two decades.

A slowing down of the proposed closing of coal-fired plants wouldn’t negate the need for renewable energy. 

“Even if coal plant closures were to be delayed, there is still a need for investment in new power generation capacity,” the researchers said, adding that South Africa has 43 gigawatts of coal-fired power. 

South Africa, which failed to maintain its fleet of coal-fired plants or invest in adequate new capacity, is now scrambling to meet demand with power cuts imposed almost daily. The outages are hindering economic growth.

Still, some politicians and labour unions are opposing a switch to renewable energy, saying that it will cost jobs and jeopardize energy security. 

The researchers considered three scenarios on how the country’s energy sector may develop until 2040.

The scenarios are as follows:

  • The Economic Transition Scenario: The lowest cost route would see a massive expansion of solar power capacity to 65 gigawatts by 2040, with wind adding 21 gigawatts and battery storage 31 gigawatts. Five gigawatts of gas-fired power would be built, and by 2040, 65% of energy would come from renewables, compared to 8% in 2021.
  • Coal Extension Scenario: Coal would account for 58% of generation in 2030, from more than 80% today, and 29% in 2040. By that date, there would be 79 gigawatts of wind and solar.
  • Clean Power Scenario: This would take South Africa closest to its target of reaching so-called net zero emissions by 2050. There would be 13 gigawatts of gas or hydrogen-fired power and 105 gigawatts of wind, solar and batteries by that date.


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