SA remodels ageing coal plants with solar technology

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The South African government has commenced with the repurposing of ageing coal power plants by adding solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and batteries, as it gradually moves away from coal as a source of power.

This was announced by environment, forestry and fisheries minister Barbara Creecy at the fifth Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action this week.

She said the repurposing is part of plans by the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission to oversee the transition from coal.

The commission is tasked with advising on SA’s climate change response, including mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and its associated impacts.

The group was also tasked with providing independent monitoring of SA’s progress in meeting its emissions reduction and adaptation goals.

Creecy explained: "Our national utility, Eskom, has committed in principle to net zero emissions by 2050, and has embarked on a process of repurposing retiring coal power plants by adding solar PV and batteries. Framework legislation on climate change will be introduced in the current session of Parliament, and will provide a firm legal basis for climate action and institutions.

“The path towards a transition to a low carbon economy and climate-proofing our infrastructure requires a high level of cooperation with traditional donors, partners and the private sector to enhance access to massively scaled-up finance, technology and capacity-building support.”

The minister, however, lamented the decline in public finance for mitigation and adaptation, saying with grant financing hovering at around 6%, this is a concern to African countries.

“We note with concern that developed countries are stepping back from a commitment to 0.7% of gross domestic product for development aid.

“Developing countries are facing a debt crisis. We will need solutions to financing climate action other than increasing developing country debt.”

Nonetheless, the minister remains optimistic of financing, adding that over 450 public development banks pledged on 12 November 2020 to align with the Paris Agreement.

“This is a very encouraging development, and we would assume that these banks will align their lending practices with the real needs of developing countries for their long-term transitions to climate-resilient and zero carbon societies.

“This will definitely include the need for transition finance. Ignoring the real needs of developing countries in this regard will result in the Paris Agreement’s goals not being achieved.”

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