Coal industry can innovate to contribute to energy transition

Thursday, February 2, 2023
File image/Dr Nobuhle Nkabane.

Mineral Resources and Energy Deputy Minister, Dr Nobuhle Nkabane, has called on the coal industry to find innovative ways for coal to contribute to the transition from a high to a low carbon economy.

Nkabane was speaking at the 18th annual Southern African Coal Conference in Cape Town.

“I… reiterate my call for the coal industry to invest in technologies that mitigate against pollution, such as the project already being implemented in Leandra on Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS).

“There are other technologies such as mixing fossils with green sources such as ammonia. Give us concrete scientific solutions in defence of the future of coal so that our political stances are not seen as a void of facts,” Nkabane told delegates..

The Deputy Minister said while renewable energy will continue to be procured by government, coal still remains key for Eskom’s baseload.

“Coal stands in pole position currently as a reliable baseload source and it is up to the coal industry working closely with Eskom and other IPPs on clean coal to ensure its status as lead energy source does not change.

“In terms of the IRP2019 [Integrated Resource Plan], we provided for about 1 500MW clean coal. This is an avenue for the coal industry to prove that coal can be used with lower carbon emission, as per our national policy of moving from higher to lower carbon emissions,” she said.

Turning to Eskom, the Deputy Minister said the industry also has a responsibility to report those who are undercutting the power utility.

“On your part as the coal industry, you should also help by reporting Eskom suppliers who cheat on supplies by including on the delivered tonnage objects that do not only lower thermal power but also damage the generation units, leading to costly breakdowns and repairs.

“As we say with regards to those who illegally mine minerals, those who break the law in this manner, distorting actual tonnage, [they] will [dealt with by] the police and not the DMRE [Department of Mineral Resources and Energy],” Nkabane said.

She said Eskom’s problems are not due to a lack of coal.

“Perhaps it is high time that the public is appropriately informed that the coal exported is merely 25% and that there is no need to protest at Richards Bay against coal exports. It is important that the public is informed correctly that load shedding is not a problem of coal supply but of plant infrastructure that, amongst others, requires refurbishment and continued maintenance.

“Eskom must give us a detailed account on what it will take to bring inoperative units back into generation, in terms of replacement parts, technical expertise and funding. Increasing the Energy Availability Factor (EAF) is our immediate solution, whilst we look into how we can solve in the long run the problems of an aging power fleet...” she said.

Nkabane said no stone will be left unturned in ensuring that load shedding challenges are successfully attended to as soon as possible. –