Image: Esi Africa
South African state-owned power utility, Eskom, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its two largest coal suppliers, Exxaro and Seriti Resources, for the development of renewable energy projects at its mining operations.
With Exxaro and Seriti Resources collectively contributing over 80% of Eskom’s coal supply, the agreement is aimed at reducing the power utility’s carbon footprint and achieving net zero emission status by 2050 by taking advantage of the low production cost of solar photovoltaic power generation.
The first phase of the project will involve the construction of solar photovoltaic facilities at Eskom mining sites and will include subsequent installations capable of facilitating energy storage.
The consortium announced in a joint statement that the project will “create employment and re-skilling opportunities for communities living and working at and around their operations, and to take a step towards a just transition to a low carbon future in South Africa.”
As South Africa’ largest contributor of greenhouse emissions, Eskom is currently undergoing a transition away from coal toward renewables while attempting not to disrupt the employment of approximately 90,000 workers in the country’s coal industry.
Mike Teke, CEO of Seriti Resources, indicated the companies’ commitment to a just energy transition, stating that, “We recognize that climate change and the need to decarbonize our economies is a significant challenge and imperative for South Africa. But at the same time, we are very conscious that this needs to be done in such a way that does not destroy our industrial base, or the lives of South Africans that rely on our companies for jobs, enterprise, and support.”
Seriti Resources has set goals to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 350,000 tons per year, which is more than half its current emissions rate of 700,000 tons of CO2 equivalent, while Exxaro has committed itself to a CO2 reduction of up to 130,000 tons per year at its Matla coal mine in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa.
Pending regulatory approvals, initial solar projects will begin as soon as possible and will be completed completely off-grid, or by using Eskom’s existing transmission infrastructure.
The Government of South Africa is currently seeking $5.1 million from the U.S., UK, and the European Union to assist in the country’s energy transition.
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