South Africa’s request for a $497 million project to decommission and repurpose the Komati coal-fired power station using renewables and batteries has been granted by the World Bank. The project will also provide employment opportunities for affected workers and communities. This is consistent with the government’s goals to move the country onto a low-carbon development path that includes reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy for everybody.

Addressing energy poverty and moving toward lower-carbon development necessitates a dependable power system to support inclusive economic growth. The Komati Project seeks to reduce climate change, improve energy security, and promote economic prospects in the Komati area. The project is in line with the country’s Just Transition Framework, which aims to reduce the socioeconomic costs of climate change, enhance the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and seize the possibilities that come with it.

The decommissioning and repurposing of the Komati coal-fired plant is a demonstration project that can be used as a model for future initiatives in South Africa and around the world. The project will offer learning opportunities through a cycle of piloting, monitoring, assessing, recording, and sharing information.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a difficult challenge worldwide, particularly in South Africa given the high carbon intensity of the energy sector,” says World Bank President David Malpass. The closure of the Komati facility this week is an important first step toward low-carbon development. We are aware of the transition’s social problems, and we are collaborating with the government, civil society, and labor unions to develop economic prospects for affected people and communities.”

The decommissioning of the Komati coal-fired power plant will result in lower carbon emissions and improved air quality in the plant’s area. South Africa’s power sector is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 41% of total CO2 emissions. This is primarily attributable to the composition of Eskom’s fleet. Its 15 coal-fired power stations, which have an average age of 41 years, supply 38.7 GW of the country’s total installed capacity of 52.5 GW.

“This project is critical to our understanding of the sustainability of decommissioning, repurposing, and mitigating the socio-economic impacts for workers and communities before we scale up the transition of the power sector to a low-carbon path,” says Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s Minister of Public Enterprises. It is part of the country’s Integrated Resource Plan 2019 to gradually retire 12 GW of our ageing and inefficient coal-fired power fleet by 2030 and to scale up 18 GW of private sector-led renewables during the same time period.”

The plant’s repurposing will increase South Africa’s energy security by installing a combination of 220 MW renewable energy solutions (including 150 MW solar PV solar and 70 MW wind) and 150 MW batteries, which will serve to improve the quality of electricity supply and grid stability.

Workers will be supported by a thorough transition plan developed collaboratively with participation from staff and unions under the Komati initiative. Transfers to other Eskom facilities, re-skilling, and upskilling for deployment to renewable energy plants will be options for affected staff.

A portion of the project’s funding will go toward generating economic possibilities for local communities, which will benefit about 15,000 individuals. Community-driven projects, skills training, incubation support, and business development services for new and existing micro, small, and medium-sized firms are projected to generate employment in agriculture, local manufacturing, and digital technology. Local governments, civil society organizations, and the commercial sector will collaborate on activities.

The Komati Just Energy Transition Project is funded in part by a World Bank loan of $439.5 million, 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).


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