State-owned power utility Eskom is preparing a pioneering request for proposals (RFP) for the repowering and repurposing of the Komati power station, in Mpumalanga, which is among the first four coal plants scheduled for decommissioning in the coming few years.
Eskom just energy transition office head Mandy Rambharos reported on Tuesday that the RFP could be released within the coming two months, once all outstanding governance matters had been settled both internally as well as with government.
Speaking during a RES4Africa webinar, Rambharos reported that comprehensive social impact studies had been completed for Komati, Hendrina, Grootvlei and Camden to assess what impact the closure of the power stations would have on direct, indirect and induced employment, as well as on large and small businesses in the areas surrounding the plants.
These reports would be published soon.
Eskom had also evaluated the various responses received to a request for expressions of interest for the repowering of the stations, using renewable-energy and storage solutions, or possibly switching their fuel sources to either gas or hydrogen.
It has also received various repurposing proposals, ranging from the creation of training facilities to the development of agricultural activities on the sites.
She stressed that Eskom would not be aiming to repower the stations with new sources of coal, noting that such a move would run contrary to the utility’s stated intention of transitioning to a net-zero utility by 2050.
For the Komati RFP, Eskom would most probably seek repowering proposals involving solar photovoltaic and battery energy storage technologies.
“We are very keen to move quickly towards implementation at Komati this year, but have not ruled out parallel processes at the other power stations,” Rambharos said.
“For now, we are focusing on getting Komati off the ground, so as to have that first demonstration project up and running.”
Komati currently has only one operating unit, which is scheduled for closure within two years.
She said the repowering and repurposing project was receiving strong support from all stakeholders, noting that President Cyril Ramaphosa had made specific reference to the initiative in his recent State of the Nation Address.
Ramaphosa said the repowering and repurposing would be done in a way that stimulated investment, local economic activity and local manufacturing, as part of a just transition.
Various funding options were being assessed and Rambharos reported that Eskom was also in the process of establishing a funding panel and appointing a transaction adviser to assist it with selecting an appropriate procurement model.
Several development finance institutions had already indicated a desire to partner with Eskom on the initiative, which could also position Eskom to access growing pools of concessional climate finance.
Eskom stressed previously that it did not have the financial wherewithal to pursue the projects on its own and that any repowering and repurposing of the power station sites would, thus, be pursued as a public-private partnership.