• Government boosting capacity to deal with power shortage
  • Funding model for nuclear power program being developed

The use of natural gas for electricity generation is a priority for South Africa as the country seeks to address present-day power shortages and rising energy needs, said Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

"I have to bring the gas program online as soon as possible," Joemat-Pettersson said on Monday at a press conference near Pretoria.

South Africa, the most industrialized country in Africa, this year asked for industry opinions about its proposed Gas-to-Power program to procure 3,126 megawatts of gas-fired power generation. The study attracted a lot of interest, she said. Attention has shifted to the region with recent natural gas discoveries off neighboring Mozambique that are estimated to be enough to make it the third-largest supplier of gas chilled to liquid for shipment.

South Africa’s planned program "will see us developing the backbone of the gas industry" in the country and the region, Joemat-Pettersson said.

South Africa is struggling to deal with a power crisis that has curbed economic growth to 1.5 percent, the slowest pace since the 2009 recession.
State-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. has cut electricity supplies 99 days this year to ease the strained grid, as it starts operating power stations after years of delays while catching up with maintenance on existing plants.

The bulk of the country’s power is currently generated by coal and the nation is looking at all of its alternatives. The ruling African National Congress has come under fire for its plan to build a 9,600-megawatt nuclear facility at a cost of as much as $100 billion to meet future demand. The Energy Ministry hasn’t come up with its own official cost projection, Joemat-Pettersson said.

The funding model for the development of nuclear generation is being determined by the Treasury and Energy Department and proposals will be presented "in the near future," the minister said. "We’re not in a hurry to rush the process."

The energy department is also evaluating the power-generation mix, including from renewable sources.

"The South Africa we’re dealing with now is not the South Africa we dealt with in 2013," when an official plan for the electricity industry was drafted, Joemat-Pettersson said. "If we want a combination of base load and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, then it’s a very fine balance that we have to take."

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