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‘Without gas, South Africa could be in for a decade of blackouts’

gas power plant

“You do need the gas” in order to make the rollout of renewable energy work.

Wartsila Oyj, a power plant manufacturing company based in Finland, believes that South Africa will continue to experience blackouts for at least another ten years unless the country invests at least $8 billion (over R137 billion) in the installation of gas-fired generation capacity, Moneyweb reports.

The blackouts are the result of Eskom, the state-owned power utility, failing to make sufficient investments in new capacity and the maintenance of 14 coal-fired power plants that are currently in operation. The slow ramp up of its two newest plants has contributed to an increase in the severity of the energy shortages.

In an interview, Wartsila’s senior business development manager for southern Africa, Wayne Glossop, stated that the company’s modeling shows South Africa’s plans to add wind and solar capacity to the grid will be implemented too slowly to prevent outages. This conclusion was reached based on the modeling that Wartsila conducted.

He stated that “you do need the gas” in order to make the roll-out of renewable energy work. He was referring to the fact that power plants that use the fuel can generate electricity quickly in response to demand.

Batteries that store power generated from wind or sun could be used instead, according to companies that specialize in renewable energy, but there are concerns about whether or not it will be possible to implement this technology.

According to the study conducted by Wartsila, power outages are forecasted to significantly increase until the year 2026, after which they are anticipated to decrease for a number of years as Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power plants come fully online.

It forecasts that the energy crisis will become even more severe in 2032 as older plants are shut down.

According to Glossop, in order to reduce the frequency and severity of disruptions, gas-engine power plants with the capacity to generate a total of 9,000 megawatts of electricity would need to be constructed by 2032 at a cost ranging between $6 billion and $8 billion.

The power plants, which typically have a generation capacity of between 100 and 400 megawatts and are also available from companies like Siemens AG and General Electric Co., have the potential to eventually be converted to hydrogen power once the cost of using hydrogen power is comparable to that of using other fuels.

READ MORE: Stage 8 load shedding on the cards

However, they face competition from other types of technologies, such as open-cycle gas turbines and combined-cycle gas turbines. The South African government intends to issue a tender for power plants that use the fuel, and Eskom has plans to build a gas-to-power plant with a capacity of 3,000 megawatts on the country’s eastern coast.

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