South Africa’s power utility company Eskom has announced a new partnership with the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) and the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC). The partnership agreement is for the development of the Komati Training Facility. This seeks to contribute to a ‘just’ transition for the local community as the Komati coal power station is decommissioned.
The Komati coal power station was commissioned in 1961 and has a nameplate capacity of 1,000 MW. The training facility will enable Eskom to reskill, retrain, and upskill workers and communities, as appropriate. In addition to the training facility, which is part of Eskom’s Komati Repowering and Repurposing project, Komati will be repowered with 150 MW of solar, 70 MW of wind, and 150 MW of batteries. Eskom has also established a containerized micro-grid assembly factory at Komati. The Komati Repowering and Repurposing project is one of the largest coal-fired power plant decommissioning, repowering, and repurposing projects globally and will provide a tangible case-study for the world on how to transition fossil-fuel assets.
The funding for the training facility will be provided by GEAPP. These funds will be used to establish the training facility and will enable SARETEC — the only fully accredited training centre for renewable energy in South Africa on Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) — and Eskom to educate, reskill, and upskill Eskom Komati Power Station staff and qualifying beneficiaries from the surrounding communities in the Mpumalanga region. Upon completion, the training center will be managed by Eskom’s Academy of Learning (EAL), which will be supported by SARETEC to achieve accreditation over time, enabling Eskom to replicate this initiative in other locations.
“Eskom is pleased to be partnering with the CPUT, SARETEC and GEAPP on this ground-breaking initiative. The training facility complements Eskom’s JET plans to RE-ignite – in other words – not only repower and repurpose plant – but to re-train, re-skill and re-empower people to take advantage of the transition that is upon us. Mpumalanga is endowed with the best of resources for the just energy transition – wind, solar, skilled people, and available grid capacity and therefore has the potential to once again become the thriving energy hub of the country.”
“South Africa can be a lighthouse for emerging markets, demonstrating the way to achieve a truly just, job creating energy transition,” said Joseph Nganga, Executive Director for Africa of the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP).
“We are thrilled to be working together with Eskom and SARETEC on this new training facility, which will focus on the upskilling of workers, before decommissioning has even begun. This facility can inform reskilling programs at other power stations and catalyse investment in South Africa’s energy transition. The partnership agreement presents a unique opportunity for the creation and scaling up of new industries across the renewables value chain. Taking full advantage of these opportunities will require the retraining and upskilling for parts of South African workforce. This will mitigate the risk of job losses related to the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations and create new job opportunities, particularly for unemployed young people. The Komati Training Facility will serve as a blueprint for how these training requirements can be fulfilled.”
CPUT Vice-Chancellor Prof Chris Nhlapo thanked Eskom and GEAPP for their confidence in the university and assured them that the project had found the perfect home at SARETEC.
“SARETEC is very different to other energy centres around the world, and I know that we have the requisite skills to fulfil a nationally imperative project like this. We will succeed because this model must be replicated across South Africa. The pursuit of an energy mix that is cleaner and greener is the only way we will address electricity challenges in this country. We are also grateful to be part of a solution that provides the Komati community with economic opportunities into the future. By assisting Eskom to set up and accredit its own training facility, SARETEC is fulfilling its mandate of supporting the socio-economic needs of the country, continent, and world.”
Eskom plans to decommission 5,400 MW of electricity from coal generation by year 2022, 10,500 MW by 2030, and 35,000 MW by 2050 (IRP, 2019). The plants in line for decommissioning include Komati, Grootvlei, Camden, Hendrina, Arnot, and Kriel by 2030. Komati will be the pilot site for repurposing and repowering its plant.
South Africa’s contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is ranked as high, and its per capita emission rate is higher than the global average. Energy demand within the country is expected to rise steadily and double by 2025, and this will have a significant impact on climate change. Eskom’s Just Energy Transition (JET) Office was established earlier in 2020 and has made significant strides to progress the evolution for transition towards a cleaner and greener energy future. JET’s vision focuses on achieving “Net Zero” carbon emissions by 2050, with an increase in sustainable jobs. Some of the additional benefits of moving towards lower carbon technologies, is the positive impact on air quality and water usage, the potential to create new exciting jobs, and a greater preservation of biodiversity in South Africa.
Image courtesy of Eskom.
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