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The World Bank Group (WBG) recently approved South Africa’s request for a $497 million project to decommission and repurpose the Komati coal-fired power plant using renewable sources and batteries.
The Komati coal-fired plant is operated by the South African electricity public utility Eskom. The plant will be repurposed by installing a combination of 220 MW of clean energy solutions comprising 150 MW of solar photovoltaic and 70 MW of wind, and 150 MW of battery storage.
These capacities will enhance the quality of electricity supply and grid stability while supporting the affected workers of the Komati project through a comprehensive transition plan by creating job opportunities.
Eskom’s 15 coal-fired power plants, with an average age of 41 years, provide 38.7 GW of the country’s 52.5 GW installed capacity. However, South Africa’s power sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, causing 41% of carbon emissions.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a difficult challenge worldwide, particularly in South Africa given the high carbon intensity of the energy sector,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass.
Aligned with the Just Transition Framework, which aims minimization of climate transition-centric socio-economic impacts, the project hopes to uplift the livelihoods of the most vulnerable.
The Komati Just Energy Transition Project is jointly financed through a $439.5 million World Bank loan, a $47.5 million concessional loan from the Canadian Clean Energy and Forest Climate Facility (CCEFCF), and a $10 million grant from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).
Options for the affected workers at the Komati plant will include transfers to other Eskom facilities, reskilling, and upskilling for deployment to the renewable energy plants.
A part of project financing will be directed at creating economic opportunities for 15,000 people.
Community-driven projects, skills training, incubation support, and business development services for new and existing micro, small, and medium enterprises are also likely to create jobs in agriculture, local manufacturing, and digital technology.
The decommissioning and repurposing of the Komati coal plant would serve as a demonstration project for the world and South Africa on how to transition fossil-fuel assets for future projects.
Malpass observed, “Closing the Komati plant this week is a good first step toward low carbon development. We are cognizant of the social challenges of the transition, and we are partnering with the government, civil society, and unions to create economic opportunities for affected workers and communities.”
Recent research published in the scientific journal Nature Energy projected that the abundant benefits of a high renewable energy share that Africa accommodates could be met only by adopting a country and context-centric plan instead of treating the continent as a monolith.
Another report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that despite Africa being home to 60% of the best solar resources globally, the continent has only 1% of installed photovoltaic capacity.