Like the cars we drive, our hard-working coal power plants, built in the 60’s and early 70’s, become unreliable, more expensive to run and produce emissions that aren’t sustainable today. As much as we have become dependent on these legendary workhorses that powered our emerging economy, they are reaching the end of their useful life expectancy. This would result in 10 Gigawatts of base-load electricity retired from our grid over the next 5 to 10 years at a vulnerable time ...
The future of these power plants, as well as the villages and communities that have evolved around them, should also be considered carefully in the decommissioning phase. We can turn these energy villages into ghost towns, or we can realise their potential and turn these valuable resources and infrastructures into future energy hubs, based on more advanced and sustainable power generation technologies, for our future energy needs. There are many re-powering programs around the world that could be considered for these retiring power plants.
The existing power stations have many valuable infrastructures like: access roads, high capacity grid connections, buildings, security, water and fuel supplies. These can facilitate a rapid and cost-effective replacement of these older stations with more advanced and cleaner technologies like: High Efficiency Low Emissions Coal, Combined Cycle Gas Turbines and Small Modular Nuclear Reactors. Multiple technologies, including Solar Energy, can be integrated on these stations to create valuable and versatile Energy Hubs. The Existing environmental permits for these sites should support a balanced portfolio of sustainable power generation technologies.
These Energy Hubs can also be used to develop and up-skill the existing resources we have for the next generation technologies. They can also develop new multi-skilled supply chains like: Power Plant Decommissioning, Construction of Modern Power Systems and the Operation and Maintenance regimes associated with these modern generation technologies.
Advanced power systems will also provide incubators and centres of excellence for the competences we need in our transition toward 4IR technologies. These programs align with our NDP objectives and should be welcomed by our Government and embraced by our Industry.
Ultimately, these Energy Hubs will generate the clean, reliable, safe and affordable sources of electricity we need to power our economy back into shape while putting South Africa back to work.
Ghost towns do completely the opposite and become a burden….