Major Eskom coal suppliers go green with solar energy projects

Exxaro and Seriti, Eskom’s major coal suppliers, are aiming to develop renewable energy projects at their operations with the companies collectively contributing over 80% of the utility’s coal supply a year.

Andre de Ruyter, Eskom CEO, said this agreement would contribute to the utility’s efforts to achieve its aim of having a net-zero emissions status by 2050. Exxaro and Seriti collectively contribute over 80% of Eskom’s coal supply a year.  

The state-owned power utility and the two coal mining companies said in a joint statement that the signing of a memorandum of understanding to pursue the development of the projects would 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.

In the meantime, the government is trying to get R76 billion in funding from the US, UK, and European Union to help the country’s transition away from coal. Eskom itself is trying to transition away from coal to renewables. 

“Eskom continues to explore means to lower the cost of coal supplied to its power stations, and this investment allows it to advantage of the low cost of photovoltaic power,” De Ruyter said. 

Solar photovoltaic panels are expected to be erected at some of the mines and Eskom sites. These projects may be completely off-grid, or use Eskom’s own transmission infrastructure.

Seriti expects to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions of up to 350 000 tonnes per annum – more than half of its current emissions of 700 000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent through using coal-fired electricity generation.

Exxaro expects to have a reduction in CO2 emissions of up to 130 000 tonnes per annum at its Matla coal mine, “which represents a saving of 70% of the greenhouse gasses with Matla at full production”, the joint statement said.  

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