Former Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga said coal-fired power plants would be important to provide South Africa with electricity for a very long time.
Maroga was appointed as Eskom CEO in 2007 after 12 years at the utility in various management roles.
Speaking at an ABSA budget review event, Maroga said that coal would continue to be important for the country as “weather-dependent resources” cannot be relied upon for the bulk of generation.
“Coal and dispatchable generation is going to be with us for many years to come,” he said.
By dispatchable capacity, Maroga was referring to capacity which can be brought onto the grid at will rather than being dependent on the environment.
The electricity grid will not function without dispatchable energy, as supply will not meet demand when environmental conditions are not optimal.
He acknowledged the poor performance of South Africa’s coal fleet, but fixing this is necessary.
“To solve this current problem, we have to solve Eskom. The other things are complementary,” he said.
A renewable future
Maroga said that coal would continue to be important for the energy mix unless it is replaced with low carbon dispatchable capacity.
He said that natural gas could be a good transitionary power source.
America and Europe have reduced their goal generation reliance through using gas. However, South Africa is not prospecting for it, and very few deposits have been found to date.
“The reason we don’t prospect is that everyone is going to be on your case,” he said, alluding to the climate protests that have started due to proposed prospecting.
He believes that nuclear energy is the future of decarbonisation efforts.
Nuclear is a non-emitting generation method that is high capacity and dispatchable. However, it requires long-term capital and can take a long time to bring onto the grid.