Tubatse Pumped Hydro Storage facility to be revived

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South Africa’s state power utility has revived a proposal to construct the Tubatse Pumped Hydro Storage facility, that was halted more than ten years ago. The project is one of nearly 20 renewable energy projects that are in the works to reduce the country’s reliance on coal.

The 1,500 megawatt Tubatse Pumped Hydro Storage facility by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which would use water-driven turbines to produce power on demand, is a part of South Africa’s so-called Just Energy Transition Investment Plan. The plan was unveiled days ago.

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The US, European Union, UK, Germany, France, and several other institutions have pledged to provide $8.5 billion in loans and grants to help ease the transition.

That amounts to only a fraction of the $84.5 billion. The government predicts that it will need over the next five years to boost renewable capacity, with a third coming from private investors.

In response to questions, the company stated that it would develop such projects where funding can be made available. Additionally, Eskom will consider alternatives, potentially using models for public-private partnerships.

Eskom isn’t in a position to pay for additional capacity on its own since it owes about 400 billion rand ($22.5 billion). The company isn’t generating enough revenue to pay its operating expenses and interest. It has been forcing rolling blackouts across the country since 2008.

Eskom’s forecast of stagnant electricity demand caused a delay in the Tubatse project in 2009. According to the transition plan, the project will cost about 35.9 billion rand. This is almost double the initial estimate of 19.6 billion rand.

How long will the Tubatse Pumped Hydro Storage facility establishment take?

According to the utility, the time needed for such a project’s development and construction is typically eight years.

Nearly 2.6 gigawatts of wind and solar generating capacity, expected to cost 48 billion rand, and 27 billion rand’s worth of battery storage capacity are also in the pipeline for projects that will be completed in the coming five years.

Many of the new construction projects will take the place of future coal-fired plant retirements. They consist of the Komati power plant. The facility shut down its final unit earlier this month. It will add renewable energy and batteries after obtaining $497 million in funding from the World Bank.

In addition, Eskom revealed proposals for the contentious 3,000-megawatt gas-fired Richards Bay power plant. The power plant will be located in the country’s east.

The government claims that burning the fuel is necessary to stabilize an unstable power system. It is said that it will be difficult to secure funding for such projects.

Eskom said it will first wait for the energy department to make a decision on the greenfield plant. This is with an aim of clarifying its role and the project’s timelines.