South Africa is accelerating preparations to deploy 3GW of gas-fired power generation in response to persistent power issues, with the goal of minimizing the country’s economic impact from the energy shortfall.

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During a news conference on Sunday, November 5, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa gave insights into the government’s approach.

Even being Africa’s most developed economy, the country still suffers from frequent power outages, which are mostly the result of malfunctions at Eskom’s aging coal-fired reactors. Officials predict that up to 6GW of new generating capacity is required to eliminate rolling blackouts, forcing a rethinking of the energy environment.

Minister Ramokgopa revealed important elements of the government’s acceleration strategy, including a 2GW transportable facility and a 1GW plant near Coega in the Eastern Cape. These projects are now in the procurement stage, demonstrating the government’s determination to move quickly.

Ramokgopa emphasized the importance of 3,000MW of gas, citing lower emissions than coal. Recognizing the global shift toward greener energy sources, the minister emphasized the need to move gas projects forward to address environmental concerns.

Although gas-fired power plants emit fewer emissions than coal-fired power plants, aligning with environmental sustainability goals, civil society, and environmental lobbying groups are advocating for investments in renewables rather than increased fossil fuel output. Accelerating gas projects may impede progress toward a fully sustainable energy landscape by slowing the shift to renewable energy sources.

Despite fewer emissions, gas is still a fossil fuel, raising questions about long-term sustainability and reliance on nonrenewable resources. While cleaner than coal, gas extraction and transportation can nevertheless have negative environmental consequences, such as methane leaks.

Environmental groups campaigning for a faster shift to renewable energy opposed the government’s initial plans for a 3GW gas-fired power station in Richards Bay. The worldwide shift away from polluting fossil fuels has sparked calls for a greater emphasis on greener alternatives.

Ramokgopa said in June that it expects to build approximately 5.5GW of new renewable energy projects by 2026. Concurrently, Eskom is looking into extending the operational life of its 40-year-old 1.94GW Koeberg nuclear facility by 20 years beyond the scheduled shutdown this year.

As South Africa ramps up attempts to address its energy difficulties, the emphasis on gas-fired power projects highlights the nation’s shifting energy strategy. The shift to cleaner alternatives indicates a commitment to balance energy need with environmental concerns.