Future of SA’s power generation still up in the air

coal power station

Race is on for clean coal and carbon capture but Department of Energy is anticipating switching base load to wind backed by gas and nuclear, writes Tom Nevin (BusinessDay)

An electric storm is brewing over whether wind-generated energy should constitute SA’s future base load or if coal should continue to shoulder the job a while longer.

Reading between the lines of the Department of Energy’s Integrated Resources Plan 2016 (IRP2016), the outcome is tilting in favour of wind.

Coal’s champions, however, have taken up the gauntlet. For either camp to claim victory, they have a mountain to climb. For wind’s standard bearers the issue is how to keep the wind blowing and for coal’s backers, how to reduce the millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO²) it produces when it burns.

The Department of Energy and Eskom envisages that by 2050, SA’s generation portfolio will include 37.4GW wind; 21.9GW combined-cycle gas turbines; 20.3GW nuclear; 17.6GW solar photovoltaic (PV); 15GW coal; 13.3GW open-cycle gas turbines; 2.5GW Inga hydro-electric project; 250MW landfill gas and 500MW demand response.

The year 2050 is a long way off and innovation in energy production will have taken great leaps in that time. It is hard, however, for many in the energy community to accept that wind, that most capricious of the elements, should be selected as SA’s senior base load partner. It is as likely for science to arrive at a process to clean coal of its planet-strangling CO² emissions and researchers worldwide are at work on the problem.

“The only way we can enhance coal’s future as one of our most useful, valuable and profitable minerals is to figure out ways of mastering the carbon dioxide it generates, given that the emissions of the other greenhouse gases (sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide) have been solved,” says Rosemary Falcon, DST-NRF SARChI chair of Clean Coal Technology at the University of the Witwatersrand and Lionel Falcon, founder of the Fossil Fuel Foundation — both part of a coal advocacy team trying to rescue coal from being written out of SA’s economic narrative.

This country produces about 250-million tonnes of CO² a year, about 1.5% of the CO² produced globally.

Read the full article on BusinessDay ⟶

Source: 06 JUNE 2017 – 06:37 by TOM NEVIN (BusinessDay).