SA Govt’s obsession with coal-fired power set to prolong power crisis

THE South African government’s persistence with coal generated power had set the country back years as it sought to navigate a way out of its energy crisis, said Bloomberg News.

Speaking to the newswire, Chris Antonopoulos, CEO of Amsterdam-based Lekela Power said renewable power companies had withered and died while the country’s power utility continued to prioritise coal-fired electricity production.

“There were two or three years when Eskom was arguing that coal was better and cheaper,” Antonopoulos said. In this period, where “nothing happened, a lot of the local industry collapsed,” he said.

During a five-year period when South Africa halted a program to acquire renewable energy for the grid, companies set up to make towers for wind turbines failed, and there is little local manufacturing capacity for solar panels, said Bloomberg News.

“That cannot be reestablished from one day to another,” Antonopoulos said, adding that it will take two to three years before the wind and solar plants ordered by the government start to improve the power situation. “The current government is doing a lot. I am so happy that they have changed.”

Lekela Power is Africa’s biggest renewable power company.

Government-run auctions for the provision of renewable energy have restarted and have been increased in size, said Bloomberg News.

Cyril Ramaphosa, South African president had also changed regulations around the construction of power plants for private use, paving the way for mining and manufacturing companies to either build or commission their own capacity.

Lekela, which is in the process of being acquired by Africa Finance Corp. and Egypt’s Infinity Group, operates wind power plants with a capacity of 624MW in South Africa. It plans to bid in future renewable energy auctions in the country, and also has facilities in Egypt, Senegal and Ghana, the newswire said.