Eskom will begin reskilling programs during August and September for its employees and community members at the Komati Power Plant, the pilot facility for the transition from coal to renewables in Mpumalanga.
According to an Eskom spokesperson, four employees – who will provide the training – are starting a trainer course this week at the South African Renewable Energy Technology Center in Cape Town.
“They will be trained as trainers to go back to this facility and train other people,” said Vakesh Rajpul, general manager of the Equitable Energy Transition Unit at Eskom.
In terms of upgrading the surrounding communities, he said, a call for applications will be issued this week to invite local residents to participate in soft skills training.
“We want to start that by the end of this month, or at the latest in early August,” he said.
An investigation by investigative environmental journalism Oxpeckers and Climate Home News in April 2023 found a significant skills gap in coal-dependent communities in Mpumalanga, and a lack of clarity on how the money could be used to reskill.
Read more here: Consider Gap (Green Skills) – Oxpeckers
In an interview with Oxpeckers on July 7, Rajpaul said Komati is setting up a training facility that will have two training centers focused on renewable energy skills such as wind turbine maintenance and installation of solar photovoltaic systems, as well as agricultural cells – the simultaneous use of areas of land for solar panels and agriculture.
“We are also looking forward to training in soft skills for community members, such as project management, welding courses, negotiation skills, presentation skills, writing business reports, and the skills needed to set up small and medium businesses.” [small, medium and micro enterprises]. “
Rajpul said Eskom intends to use Komati as a training center for the district. He said it will work with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in Mpumalanga to provide a unified program for training, development and community upliftment.
Mpumalanga has three TVET colleges under the Department of Higher Education and Training, which focus on “preparing students to become functional workers in a skilled occupation”.
“We’re not doing it in isolation, and it’s not just Eskom employees,” Rajpul said, referring to concerns expressed by several Oxpeckers interviewees that only employees would benefit from the renewables transition.
Re-strengthening and re-purposing
To make the Komati transition possible, the World Bank approved in November 2022 a soft loan facility of $497 million (about R9 billion) to Eskom for the Komati Power Supply and Reuse Project. Of that amount, $47.5 million came from the Canadian Clean Energy and Forest Climate Facility, and a $10 million grant from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program.
According to the World Bank, these funds will support Eskom in decommissioning the 56-year-old Komati coal-fired power plant, repurpose the project area with renewable energy and batteries, and create opportunities for workers and communities.
If successful, the World Bank said, the project could provide a blueprint for a just energy transition in South Africa and beyond.
Rajpul told the Oxpeckers during a media tour of Komati, organized by the Presidential Climate Commission, that the World Bank loan had three components that Eskom must meet: decommissioning the Komati plant (the allocation of $33.5 million in financing); Reallocation of the project area using hybrid renewables – solar, wind, batteries and condenser synchronous ($416 million); Minimizing the social and economic impacts of factory closures and creating opportunities for workers and communities ($47.5 million).
“The aim is to fund retrofitting and re-energy as well as, where appropriate, site rehabilitation,” he said. “So it’s only for the Komati Power Plant.”
According to Rajpul, just under 10% of the total loan will be set aside to address community improvement initiatives.
“This is talking about agricultural cells, the manufacture of fine nets in containers, as well as the establishment of training centers,” he said. The World Bank, in conjunction with the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, is financing the Komati Training Facility.
Re-energy will see Komati produce about 340 MW of new-generation capacity: 50 MW solar PV, 70 MW wind, and 150 MW battery energy storage.
Eskom is also looking for a synchronous capacitor to be installed on site, which will improve the plant’s power factor and reduce the reactive current required from the grid.
The plant produced 1,000 megawatts when it was originally commissioned, and concerns have been expressed about the lower megawatts that would be produced through renewables compared to the 1,000 megawatts when it was coal-fired.
“We acknowledge that megawatts of renewables are not equal to megawatts of coal,” Rajpul said.
“You can’t build all the capacity, and it’s not our intention to replace all the capacity that the power plant was generating, [but] It forms part of a larger regional initiative.”
He said that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy determines the new generation capacity, so Eskom acknowledges that the capacity of the plant it will include is not the same as the capacity of the plant that was closed.
“But from a regional perspective, from a regional perspective, from a country perspective, there is a need for us to build more generation capacity,” he said.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan addressed concerns about the megawatt decline, saying that other power plants would make up for what was lost in Komati “over a period of time”.
“What we want in South Africa, sooner rather than later, is energy security,” Jordanhan said. There should be enough megawatts per household. There should be enough megawatts for our economy, and there should be no load shedding in the future.”
pilot to move
Being the oldest coal-fired power plant in South Africa, Komati was the first to be decommissioned and used as a transmission pilot in South Africa.
“They were actually decommissioned in the 1990s, then put back into service for 10 years. By 2022, they’re past their design life, so it’s no longer economical for Eskom to run them,” Crispian Olver, executive director of the Presidential Climate Commission, told Oxpeckers.
According to Olver, even before the government started talking about the energy transition and transition to renewables, Komati was reaching the end of its life.
So it would be wrong to look at my kumati and say [it is shut down] Because we are making this transition to renewable energy; “That’s not the reason, actually,” Oliver said.
After it was decided to decommission Komati, Eskom built two new coal-fired power plants, Medupi and Kusile.
“So we were building new stations at the same time we were taking down the old ones,” he said.
“The way power plants are shut down is important because when we switch from coal to renewables, it’s important that we have this [Komati] The right to disassemble. ” DM
Thabo Molelikwa is a freelance health and environment journalist and a graduate of the Ph.D Oxpeckers #PowerTracker Training Program. This investigation was previously supported African Climate FoundationNew Economy Campaigns Center
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