As COP26 kicks off on in Glasgow, Eskom hopes for grants

The UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, has kicked off in Glasgow on Sunday, and South Africa is being pitched as the “dear” funders have been waiting to reduce emissions. The COP26 event is a global United Nations summit about climate change and how countries are planning to tackle it.

COP26 is an opportunity for Eskom to secure further international grants and concessional finance aligned to climate mitigation conditions and its JET strategy. The utility will, however, be decarbonised in a phased manner, Rambharos said.

Debt-ridden Eskom, which briefly plunged the country into stage four blackouts again last week — reflecting a 4 000-megawatt shortfall in capacity — is seeking billions of dollars abroad to help fund its plans for the closure of most of its coal-fired power plants by 2050 and in championing renewable energy. Eskom is Africa’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter. 

The latest round of power cuts shows how “desperate” South Africa is for new reliable capacity, Mandy Rambharos, said the general manager of Eskom’s Just Energy Transition (JET) office.

“I think people feel comfortable with the coal stations because that’s what we’ve known for so many years and there’s a little bit of discomfort in moving into something new, even though it’s cheaper, more reliable and cleaner and ticks all those boxes,” she added.

Eskom is expected to decommission three of its oldest coal-fired power stations by 2026.

74% of the country’s total primary energy supply in 2020 was derived from burning coal — more than double the average of 31% among the G20 group of industrialised and developing nations. Renewables accounted for 7.6% of the country’s power generation last year, a significant increase from previous years, but still well below the G20 average of 28.7%.

South Africa’s current emissions trajectory is not compatible with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the assessment found.

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