/ 22 August 2023

South Africa eyes Russia’s technology to extend power station lifespan

Gwede Mantashe 9560 Dv
Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

South Africa will lean on Russia’s technology if it continues with its plans to extend the life of its ageing coal fleet.

This is according to Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who was speaking on the sidelines on Tuesday as the ANC tripartite alliance welcomed Brazil President Lula da Silva.

“If we want to extend the life of power stations we have to lean more on the Russia side because the technology is much stronger there than anywhere else in the world. That is why the Brics bloc is very important for us because if we solve the energy problem we can address most of the challenges in our country,” he said.

Mantashe said the country was planning to work with all the Brics partners to solve South Africa’s electricity crisis — “Brazil, because it is much stronger on the fuel side and China is much stronger on the renewables side”.

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has previously said that as the country adds renewable energy to the grid, the coal-fired power stations act as a base load—the minimum capacity required to supply the electrical grid at any given time.

The grid needs to be extended in parts of the country to accept energy from renewable sources.

Mantashe, like Ramokgopa, has argued that the country needs to extend the life of coal-fired power stations to strengthen energy security first.

South Africa has committed to decommission its coal fleet by 2035 to reduce its carbon footprint to combat climate change. The country has received pledges from global partners of about $8.5 billion to achieve this. 

On Tuesday, during a business forum before the Brics summit, Standard Bank chief executive Sim Tshabalala said as African countries embark on their transition to cleaner energy, they  should not be punished for their energy decisions, including those delaying the decommission of coal plants.

“We need to insist on the right of African nations to use its resources to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts,” he said.

Mandisa Nyathi is a climate reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa